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MPR Poll: November presidential contest might be close in Minnesota
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The poll revealed significant unfavorable ratings for nearly all of the candidates. (MPR Graphic/Ben Tesch)
Minnesota voters say if the presidential election were held today, Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts would have the best chance to beat George W. Bush in the state. A new Mason-Dixon poll sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio and the St. Paul Pioneer Press sheds light on voter opinions on President Bush, the Democratic candidates for president, and the war on terrorism.

St. Paul, Minn. — John Kerry is looking good to many Minnesota voters. Forty-three percent of those polled said they would vote him into office to 41 percent for President Bush. With a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points, that would make it a dead heat.

Wesley Clark, John Edwards and Joseph Lieberman got 39 percent in head-to-head match-ups against Bush.

Mason-Dixon Polling, which conducted the survey for MPR and the Pioneer Press chose not to include Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton in the questions.

Bush's showing 10 months before the election in a state that hasn't gone for a GOP presidential candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972 should be encouraging to Republicans.

Minnesota hasn't gone for GOP candidates since Richard Nixon in 1972. University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs says that means the numbers may be as comforting to the White House as they are to Kerry.

"Even with this kind of rise in the last 10 days, he's basically tied up with the president in a state that the Democrats have to count on. So the question is, is Kerry going to improve from this point on, or is he going to begin to fade a bit in Minnesota after the president begins his campaign. The president has not started the campaign yet, and remember, he's sitting on about $200 million. And I think Minnesota's going to see a lot of the president, and a lot of that money flowing into the state," according to Jacobs.

Poll respondent Henrietta Turcotte, 78, of Merrifield, says she likes President Bush, but she's on the fence about whether she'd vote for Bush or Kerry. She says she likes what she's heard from Kerry, but just doesn't know enough about him yet.

"He seems to be more down to earth, although I used to think George Bush was too," she said.

Turcotte complains that George Bush has become "too much for the rich people."

"With his big deal that he thought he did for Medicare, does nothing for me, for my prescriptions and that. I don't benefit nothing out of there," she said.

On issues besides Medicare, though, Turcotte says she approves overall of the job George Bush is doing as president.

According to the poll, voters give President Bush an approval rating of 53 percent.

That's down from the last MPR Pioneer Press poll in late April when 61 percent of those polled rated the President's overall performance as "good" to "excellent."

That poll was taken just after the president's declaration of military success in Iraq. In the current poll, 49 percent say they approve of President Bush's handling of the Iraq situation.

And, a strong majority of respondents -- 64 percent -- say they approve of the president's handling of homeland security and the war on terrorism.

Dorothy Kotila of Cokato says she supports the president's efforts. "I think he's doing what he can do. I think it's a tough tough job. I think our borders have to be patrolled like they seem to be doing, and our airlines have to be protected. But it's a tough job, it's a big country. Got an awful lot of borders out there."

George Bush doesn't do as well with poll respondents on the economy.

Forty-seven percent say they disapprove of the president's handling of the country's economic situation.

Respondent Shawn Cassity, 34, of Minneapolis said, "there may have been signs that the economy was going to slow down, probably before the president took office, but as far as I can tell, his policies were just to cut taxes, and spend a lot of money and see what happens. And that obviously hasn't worked, because, although it looks like the economy starting to turn around, there's still a lot more people out of work now than there were four years ago."

The poll was conducted January 26-28. A total of 625 registered Minnesota voters were interviewed for the poll.

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