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The Secret to Klobuchar's Popularity: Enduring Republican Support

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The latest round of SurveyUSA monthly polling data again shows Minnesota DFL U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar holding on to her statewide support more than any of the 25 Senators tracked by the polling organization.

With a 62 percent approval rating, Klobuchar is the only Senator in the group with a higher job performance rating in late April than when the new session began in January (60 percent).

Klobuchar also is tied with New York senior Senator Democrat Chuck Schumer for the second highest approval rating among the more than two-dozen Senators tracked by SurveyUSA, behind only newly-elected Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia (64 percent).

Change in U.S. Senator Approval Ratings, January - April 2009

State
Senator
Jan-09
Apr-09
Change
% Change
MN
Amy Klobuchar
60
62
+2
+3.3
AL
Jeff Sessions
60
60
0
0.0
NY
Chuck Schumer
63
62
-1
-1.6
WA
Patty Murray
55
54
-1
-1.8
KS
Sam Brownback
54
53
-1
-1.9
MO
Claire McCaskill
52
51
-1
-1.9
WA
Maria Cantwell
56
54
-2
-3.6
KY
Mitch McConnell
45
43
-2
-4.4
VA
Mark Warner
67
64
-3
-4.5
OR
Jeff Merkley
42
39
-3
-7.1
NY
Kirsten Gillibrand*
(41)
36
-5
-7.1
VA
Jim Webb
52
48
-4
-7.7
NM
Tom Udall
63
57
-6
-9.5
CA
Barbara Boxer
52
47
-5
-9.6
OR
Ron Wyden
62
56
-6
-9.7
WI
Russ Feingold
61
55
-6
-9.8
IA
Tom Harkin
58
51
-7
-12.1
MO
Kit Bond
55
48
-7
-12.7
KS
Pat Roberts
61
53
-8
-13.1
CA
Diane Fienstein
57
49
-8
-14.0
AL
Richard Shelby
60
51
-9
-15.0
NM
Jeff Bingaman
64
54
-10
-15.6
IA
Charles Grassley
71
59
-12
-16.9
WI
Herb Kohl
64
53
-11
-17.2
KY
Jim Bunning
42
34
-8
-19.0
* Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand approval rating measured from February 2009. SurveyUSA polling data compiled by Smart Politics.

Smart Politics recently examined Klobuchar's remarkably consistent approval ratings - noting how she has the least variance in support among the Senators in the dozen states examined by SurveyUSA since January 2008.

But one of the keys to Klobuchar's enduring popularity in the Gopher State has been her ability to gain favor with a large percentage of Republicans - something Norm Coleman failed to do with Democrats in the closing months of the 2008 election.

A Smart Politics analysis of 26 months of SurveyUSA polls dating back to January 2007, when Klobuchar was sworn into office in D.C., finds the Senator consistently getting the nod of nearly 40 percent of self-identified Republicans statewide for her job performance. In 2007, an average of 37.2 percent of Republicans approved of Klobuchar's job performance, followed by 39.6 percent in 2008, and 36.8 percent in 2009.

Meanwhile, Senator Klobuchar is viewed as doing a good job in Washington, D.C. by slightly more than half of the state's independents, and a growing number of the state's Democrats: 75.8 percent in 2007, 77.5 percent in 2008, and 81.8 percent thus far in 2009.

Klobuchar built this fairly large swath of support among Republicans early in her Congressional career, despite ranking as the 21st most liberal member of the U.S. Senate in 2007 in National Journal's annual rankings. In 2008, Klobuchar ranked as only the 37th most liberal member of the U.S. Senate.

Amy Klobuchar Yearly Aggregated Approval Rating by Party ID in SurveyUSA Polling, 2007-2009

Year
Republican
Democrat
Independent
Total
2007
37.2
75.8
55.6
57.9
2008*
39.6
77.5
58.4
60.5
2009
36.8
81.8
55.5
60.3
* SurveyUSA did not conduct polling in June and July 2008. SurveyUSA polling data compiled by Smart Politics.

While Klobchar has maintained a consistent approval rating among Republicans throughout her 2+ years in office, many fail to realize Norm Coleman also used to receive nearly the same level of approval among Democrats - that is, until his 2008 U.S. Senate negative campaign ads began to hit the airwaves in the Summer of 2008.

A Smart Politics analysis of 34 SurveyUSA polls dating back to January 2006 finds Coleman to have earned the approval of roughly one-third of the state's Democrats with regards to his job performance in 2006 (34.2 percent), 2007 (32.8 percent), and the first half of 2008 (34.2 percent).

However, during the last three months of the campaign (August-October 2008) and first two months of the U.S. Senate recount (November-December 2008), Senator Coleman's approval rating among Democrats was sliced nearly in half, to just 18 percent. While falling below the 30 percent approval rating among Democrats in the state in just 6 out of 29 polls from January 2006 through May 2008, Coleman's rating dropped to 20 percent among Minnesota Democrats in August 2008, 18 percent in September, 17 percent in October and November, and 18 percent in December of last year.

Norm Coleman Yearly Aggregated Approval Rating by Party ID in SurveyUSA Polling, 2006-2009

Year
Democrat
Republican
Independent
Total
2006
34.2
76.2
48.1
51.2
2007
32.8
74.5
48.3
49.5
2008 (Jan-May)
34.2
76.6
47.0
50.2
2008 (Aug-Dec)
18.0
81.2
40.8
43.2
Note: SurveyUSA did not conduct polling in June and July 2008. Polling data compiled by Smart Politics.

While Republicans' view of Coleman's job performance turned even more positive during the waning months of 2008 - topping the 80 percent mark - this was not enough for Coleman to endure the significant decline among Democrats, compounded with the moderate decline among independents (which fell about 6 percentage points from the first half to second half of 2008).

While the left wing blogosphere was particularly critical of the Senator during his 2008 campaign (and subsequent court challenges), what is often missed is that Coleman legislated as a much more liberal Republican than Klobuchar has as a conservative Democrat. National Journal ranked Coleman as the 5th most liberal Republican in 2007 and 9th most liberal in 2008, based on key votes cast during the respective years.

But the good will Coleman had amassed among one-third of the state's Democrats throughout his first term in office was cut in half almost immediately after the negative ads ran during the Summer of 2008.

All the while, Klobuchar continues to bank on nearly 40 percent of the state's Republicans approving of her job performance in D.C., despite demonstrating a more ideologically-titled voting record than Coleman.

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