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MPR Poll: Grams Running Strong in Senate Race
By Laura McCallum
July 11, 2000
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With nine weeks to go until the September primary, DFL voters are still undecided and divided about the U.S. Senate race. That's according to a poll conducted last week for Minnesota Public Radio, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and KARE-11 TV. None of the four major DFL candidates captures more than one-fourth of the likely Democratic voters polled.

See complete poll results. See larger graph.
FORMER STATE AUDITOR Mark Dayton leads the crowded field of Democrats, chosen by 21 percent of the 320 likely DFL primary voters polled by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research. Following Dayton were businesswoman Rebecca Yanisch with 16 percent, State Senator Jerry Janezich with 15 percent and trial attorney Mike Ciresi with 11 percent. But "undecided" topped the list at 36 percent, and considering the poll's margin of error of plus or minus six percentage points for the likely Democratic voters, none of the candidates has a clear edge. Even Mark Dayton wasn't gloating over his narrow first-place finish.

"I think it's anybody's race to win and it's highly competitive, and as this poll shows, most voters are undecided and probably won't be making up their minds until the final two weeks before the primary," says Dayton.

Dayton, who has run in five statewide elections, also has the highest name recognition among the Democratic candidates, although that doesn't mean Minnesotans will vote for him.

Despite Rebecca Yanisch's advertising blitz, half of those polled don't know who she is, and nearly half don't know who Mike Ciresi or Jerry Janezich are. Yet in a hypothetical post-primary match-up with Republican Senator Rod Grams, Yanisch fares the best among the DFLers, getting support from 32 percent of those polled, compared to Grams' 42 percent.

Yanisch is elated by the poll results. "Right now, only 50 percent of the people in the state know who I am," she says. "I need to continue reaching out over the next 64 days to the other 50 percent of the people. But even when you show that face-off with Grams against other DFL candidates, I do the best."

Grams has never had high favorable ratings, and this latest poll is no exception. Thirty-nine percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of him, 28 percent have an unfavorable impression.

Gustavus Adolphus political scientist Chris Gilbert says Grams is vulnerable, but the DFL candidates still have their work cut out for them. "In order to beat Rod Grams, you actually have to get known, you have to begin to make an impression among Minnesota voters, and even the endorsed candidate of the party hasn't done that, and the two candidates running the most advertisements - Ciresi and Yanisch - especially using television - haven't done that either," Gilbert says.

Several of the poll respondents say they don't know much about the candidates. The DFL candidates' challenge in the next nine weeks is to reach undecided DFL voters - many of whom are not only concerned about where the candidates stand on the issues, but who's the best Democrat to challenge Rod Grams.