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Romney-Bills and Klobuchar-Obama Voter Gaps Could Make History in Minnesota

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Kurt Bills is running 22 points behind his party's presidential nominee in Minnesota according to a new Star Tribune poll - on pace to eclipse the worst-ever mark of -17 points since the DFL merger in 1944

kurtbills10.jpgHow bleak are things looking for the Kurt Bills campaign?

Smart Politics recently reported that Bills was on track for the second worst performance by a Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate since the Great Depression.

And the polls just keep getting worse, not better.

A new Star Tribune survey found Bills trailing one-term DFL incumbent Amy Klobuchar by an astounding 65 to 22 percent - his worst showing in a poll to date.

Bills - who has previously been publicly critical of polls as Democratic-skewed - has little room to complain this time around as the sample of likely voters in the same poll also found Mitt Romney closing in on Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, trailing by just 47 to 44 percent.

If those numbers hold - though it seems difficult to believe things could turn out this bad for a major party nominee in the Gopher State - Bills will shatter another record in the Gopher State.

Smart Politics analyzed the difference between the vote for each party's U.S. Senate and presidential nominees when they both appeared on the same ballot over the last seven decades.

Of these 22 U.S. Senate candidacies, the largest ever deficit was turned in by Republican Jerry Brekke in 1976.

Brekke won just 25.0 percent of the vote that year with Gerald Ford winning 42.0 percent at the top of the ticket, or a -17.0-point gap.

Only two other candidates have sunk double digits below their party's presidential nominee since the DFL merger: DFLers Hubert Humphrey III in 1988 and AL Franken in 2008.

Humphrey notched only 40.9 percent of the vote in his loss to David Durenberger in 1988 - 12 points behind Michael Dukakis' 52.9 percent en route to the Massachusetts governor carrying Minnesota's 10 electoral votes against George H.W. Bush.

In 2008, Al Franken's 42.0 percent was 12.1 points behind Barack Obama - in significant part due to the strong showing by Independence Party nominee Dean Barkley who won 15.2 percent and depressed the numbers of both Franken and Norm Coleman.

Usually the gap between a party's vote for president and U.S. Senator in Minnesota is rather small.

The vote for 10 of the 22 major party U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot in Minnesota during presidential election years since 1944 was within four points (in either direction) of their presidential nominee.

For 16 of 22 nominees the spread was within single digits of the vote for the presidential ticket.

The average (absolute value) difference between the presidential and U.S. Senate votes has been 6.3 points across all candidates.

On the flip side, should Amy Klobuchar end up anywhere near the 65 percent mark she garnered in the recent Star Tribune poll, she will likely find herself outperforming the top of the ticket in a presidential cycle at a historic level.

The Star Tribune numbers show voters giving Klobuchar 18 more points of support from Minnesotans (65 percent) than what they give President Obama (47 percent).

Since the DFL merger, the best a U.S. Senate candidate has performed vis-à-vis their party's presidential nominee is +12.6 points when Hubert Humphrey won 67.5 percent of the vote in 1976 and Jimmy Carter carried the state with 54.9 percent.

Other particularly strong senate candidacies were recorded by Walter Mondale in 1972 (+10.6 points over George McGovern) and Dave Durenberger in 1988 (+10.3 points above George H.W. Bush).

Gap in Vote for U.S. Senator and President by Party in Minnesota Since DFL Merger, 1944-2008

Year
Party
Senate nominee
%
Presidential nominee
%
Difference
1976
DEM
Hubert Humphrey
67.5
Jimmy Carter
54.9
12.6
1972
DEM
Walter Monday
56.7
George McGovern
46.1
10.6
1988
GOP
Dave Durenberger
56.2
George H.W.Bush
45.9
10.3
1984
GOP
Rudy Boschwitz
58.1
Ronald Reagan
49.5
8.6
1960
DEM
Hubert Humphrey
57.5
John Kennedy
50.6
6.9
1996
GOP
Rudy Boschwitz
41.3
Bob Dole
35.0
6.3
1964
GOP
Wheelock Whitney
39.3
Barry Goldwater
36.0
3.3
1948
DEM
Hubert Humphrey
59.8
Harry Truman
57.2
2.6
1952
GOP
Edward Thye
56.6
Dwight Eisenhower
55.3
1.3
2000
DEM
Mark Dayton
48.8
Al Gore
47.9
0.9
1948
GOP
Joseph Ball
39.8
Thomas Dewey
39.9
-0.1
1996
DEM
Paul Wellstone
50.3
Bill Clinton
51.1
-0.8
1952
DEM
William Carlson
42.5
Adlai Stevenson
44.1
-1.6
2008
GOP
Norm Coleman
42.0
John McCain
43.8
-1.8
2000
GOP
Rod Grams
43.3
George W. Bush
45.5
-2.2
1964
DEM
Eugene McCarthy
60.3
Lyndon Johnson
63.8
-3.5
1960
GOP
P. Kenneth Peterson
42.2
Richard Nixon
49.2
-7.0
1984
DEM
Joan Anderson Growe
41.3
Walter Mondale
49.7
-8.4
1972
GOP
Phil Hansen
42.9
Richard Nixon
51.6
-8.7
1988
DEM
Hubert Humphrey III
40.9
Michael Dukakis
52.9
-12.0
2008
DEM
Al Franken
42.0
Barack Obama
54.1
-12.1
1976
GOP
Jerry Brekke
25.0
Gerald Ford
42.0
-17.0
Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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