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Dayton Leads in Latest Senate Poll
By Laura McCallum
August 25, 2000
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DFL Senate candidate Mark Dayton has developed a solid lead over his primary opponents, according to a statewide poll for Minnesota Public Radio, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and KARE-TV. Dayton continues to have the highest name recognition of the DFL candidates, and is as well known as Republican Senator Rod Grams.

The Results
See the complete poll results.
DAYTON TOPS THE CROWDED FIELD of DFL Senate candidates in a sample of 409 likely Democratic primary voters. The poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research found 27 percent would vote for the former state auditor. His three major primary opponents are tightly bunched together: 18 percent of those polled would vote for trial attorney Mike Ciresi, 17 percent support DFL-endorsed candidate Jerry Janezich and 13 percent back businesswoman Rebecca Yanisch. The Democratic sample's margin of error is plus or minus five percentage points. About a fourth of those polled were undecided, with less than three weeks until the primary. Dayton, who's making his fourth bid for statewide office, says he's encouraged by his lead, but isn't taking anything for granted.

"The undecided vote is still high, and polls can disappear overnight. I've done this enough times before, and having lost a couple, I have a sense of realism and humility about the process, and the only poll that matters is the one on primary day September 12," Dayton said.

Dayton has favorable name recognition among 44 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, followed by Ciresi, Janezich and Yanisch. One of the poll respondents who says she'll probably vote for Dayton is 63-year-old Marie Wasmund, a pre-school teacher in Worthington. Wasmund says Dayton seems sincere in wanting to help people.

"I like the fact that he has always seemed very down to earth, even though he has a great deal of money. I've always liked him, and the only reason I wouldn't vote for him is because he hasn't won," Wasmund said.

Wasmund says she likes Dayton's ads, which have blanketed the airwaves around the state for more than a month. Not far behind Dayton in his ad buys is Ciresi, who did better in this poll than he did in the last MPR/Pioneer Press/KARE-11 poll in early July. Campaign spokesman Paul Omodt says the poll is good news for Ciresi.

"We've gone up seven points. Dayton's stayed about the same, and Jerry and Rebecca have stayed about the same. Clearly, we've moved up the poll, I think our advertising's paying off and Mike's travels around the state are definitely paying off," Omodt said.

The poll asked a larger sample of 621 registered voters about match-ups between Republican Sen. Rod Grams and the four DFL candidates. Dayton, Ciresi and Janezich were statistically tied with Grams, and only Yanisch polled behind the incumbent in the hypothetical match-up, losing to Grams 35 percent to 44 percent. She also didn't appear to benefit from being the only woman in the race - women were evenly divided between supporting her and Grams, while the three male DFL candidates got more support from women. Yanisch downplayed the poll results.

"It's not surprising, because, you know, I haven't been on TV the way the two lead contenders have been all summer long. And so really, our message has started again just this week with my co-chair, Tim Penny, speaking about my qualifications for the U.S. Senate," Yanisch said.

The Janezich campaign also put a positive spin on the poll, noting that Janezich hasn't run one television ad and is still competitive with both Ciresi and Yanisch. Campaign manager Randy Schubring says primary polls generally underestimate the value of the endorsement and labor support, both of which Janezich has. The poll may be giving the Grams campaign some jitters, since he doesn't have the commanding lead typically enjoyed by an incumbent. But Grams says that's because all the media coverage has focused on the competitive DFL primary.

"You know, the Democrats right now are filling the airwaves with their ads, and you know, this can be expected. But like I say, the real race will start after September 13," Grams said.

The poll is also less than encouraging for the Independence Party's endorsed Senate candidate, software developer James Gibson. In match-ups with Grams and the Democrats, he gets three or four percent of the vote. The party has to get at least five percent to retain its major party status in Minnesota.