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MN-02: Rowley Closes Gap

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Coleen Rowley, the DFL candidate in Minnesota's 2nd US House district, has closed her deficit to 2-term GOP incumbent John Kline from 20 to 8 points in less than three weeks, according to polls released by SurveyUSA in late September and mid-October. The poll's media sponsor is KSTP-TV Channel 5.

Rowley, an ex-FBI agent, has seen her support rise from 35% to 42% since September 2006, while the percentage of likely voters planning to vote for Kline dropped from 55% to 50% during this span. Independence Party candidate Doug Williams garnered 5% in both polls.

Rowley's surge raises several questions: is this increase in support a result of voters in her district becoming more familiar with her candidacy? Or is her rise in the polls reflective of the national trend affecting House races nationwide that see Democrats becoming very competitive in previously safe GOP-controlled districts?

The internals of the SurveyUSA poll show an increase in those self-identifying as Democrats compared to the September poll (33% to 37%), while those identifying as Republicans dropped a bit (42% to 39%). It is possible those who only identify weakly with the Republican Party are now abandoning their party at the margins. It is also possible—as this was a poll of likely voters—that such republicans are not indicating a strong motivation to vote in November and are therefore being screened out of the survey process.

In any case, those who indicate they are likely voters are not on the fence as to which candidates they support: only 2% were undecided in the October 13-15 poll. Any further rise in support for Rowley from this point forward can therefore probably be read as a peeling away of voters from Kline—and a result of the anti-GOP nationwide trend.

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