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Poll: Minnesota Up for Grabs in Presidential Contest
By Michael Khoo
July 12, 2000
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A new poll suggests Texas Governor George W. Bush could be the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Minnesota since Richard Nixon's 1972 victory. A survey, conducted for Minnesota Public Radio; the St. Paul Pioneer Press; and KARE-11 TV, shows Bush and Vice-President Al Gore in a statistical dead heat among likely Minnesota voters.

See larger image. See complete results of the poll.
THE POLL SHOWS GEORGE W. BUSH leading Al Gore 43 to 40 percent. With a margin of error of plus- or minus-four percentage points, the presumptive Republican and Democratic nominees are neck-and-neck, despite numerous trips to the state by Gore. Bush supporters say news of a statistical tie is remarkable. St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, who chairs the state Bush campaign, says national politicians have long considered Minnesota a Democratic stronghold, and he says a Republican victory here would send a message nationwide.

"If he wins Minnesota, you're going to be talking about a mandate, which - in the end - if you want to govern, you need a mandate," said Coleman. "Win Minnesota, and you will have a mandate to govern. In the end it is about governing. It's not about running for office. It's about having the ability to implement your vision."

Coleman says Bush's brand of "compassionate conservatism" appeals broadly to Minnesotans.

Bush's message seemed to resonate with Robert Jensen of Crystal. Jensen was one of 620 registered voters contacted for the survey.

" I have not been impressed either with some of what he's done while he's been in office as the vice-president, nor some of his stands on particular issues. So for me it will be a very difficult choice in the fall election. None of the candidates are truly compelling for me."

- Diane Harvey
Poll respondent
"He goes along with the kind of the middle-of-the-road, centrist type position," says Jensen. "I'm not a liberal person, politically. Then again, I don't like the complete reversal or the ultra-conservative, either. So I see him as a kind of a centrist who can represent the people fairly well."

But Gore supporters say Bush's move to the center is an insincere attempt to appear more mainstream. Rick Stafford, who chairs the Minnesota Gore campaign, says Gore has faced eight years of scrutiny alongside President Clinton, and that Bush's popularity will wane as he, too, is put under the spotlight.

"Al Gore's a known quantity in the sense that he has some tie, because of the Bill Clinton administration," says Stafford. "What the unknown quantity is is George Bush. What they see is kind of the nice, smiling sound bite of George Bush, and haven't really taken any look and examined what really George W. Bush stands for."

The poll shows more Minnesotans think favorably of Bush than of Gore. Moreover, Bush's ratio of favorable-to-unfavorable recognition is also better than Gore's. And although the survey shows less than 10 percent of likely voters remain undecided, Stafford predicts an eventual shift to Gore by November.

The poll also found marginal support for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, coming in at five percent; and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, who scored three percent. The Bush and Gore camps said their candidate will visit the state sometime before the November election.