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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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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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