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Finally, a poll in the Sixth!

Hat tip to BvW and Polinaut for pointing this one out.

Some bloggers (KvM's Gary and BvW's GOP Wingman) jumped the gun and declared that this poll showed a decisive Bachmann lead over Patty Wetterling. It's true that the poll shows an 11-point advantage for the Republican candidate, when the "weak Dem"/"weak Repub" voters are added in. However, as several people have pointed out (notably Lawrence Schumacher at the St. Cloud Times and Jeff Kouba at BvW), the poll asked asked voters to choose between a generic Republican and a generic Democratic candidate. It did not include the names of the candidates.

Therefore, questions may be raised as to the usefulness of this poll. A comment at Daily Kos puts it succinctly:

Lose no sleep over MN-06 (1+ / 0-)

Patty Wetterling, the icon, runs well ahead of the generic Democratic line in this Republican-leaning district. Similarly, Michele Bachmann has more baggage than the Orient Express. The question as phrased is going to put a Democrat at a disadvantage.

I would agree with that assessment. Patty Wetterling ran four points ahead of John Kerry in 2004, and her 2004 percentage was 11 points ahead of the 2002 Democratic nominee Janet Robert's total. A study done in January by the Mellman Group found that Patty Wetterling enjoyed 76% name recognition in the Sixth District, far outreaching Michele Bachmann's 32%. I'm sure those numbers have changed, and will change more as the campaign escalates, but the fact remains that any poll done without the use of the candidates' names gives an inaccurate picture.

The poll also did not include the Independence Party candidate, neither his real name (John Binkowski) nor his generic title (IP candidate). In what is sure to be a close race, Binkowski could be a spoiler, and any poll that does not include the Binkowski option is automatically suspect.

There are still interesting facts to be gleaned from the poll, however, and especially from the detailed crosstabs that accompanied the poll results.

One interesting point is gleaned by looking at the "certainty" question (#3 in the pdf.) Among self-identified Democrats, 87% were "certain" of their choice, while just 13% said they "may vote for [the] opponent [of the candidate they chose]." The latter segment seems more likely to include a disproportionate number of the 11% of Democrats who said they preferred the Republican candidate. On the Republican side, the "certainty" number was smaller at 80%. The +/- on this poll is 3%, so the 7-point differential is nearly within the margin of error, but it would seem that Republican voters are slightly less confident in their choice than are Democrats. Also take into consideration the 29% of independents who remain "uncertain" of their choice, the overall 5% "undecided" number, and the 18 percent of respondents who registered "weak" support for either candidate. The conclusions I draw from all of this is that the Sixth is still a close race that's going to come down to the wire.

The Bush Factor
Overall Bush job approval in the Sixth is registered at 47% approval, with 48% disapproving and 5% undecided. I cant't find approval numbers broken down by district for 2004, but if we take Bush's 57-42 win in the Sixth in 2004 as an approximation of his approval rating (not necessarily a good one, I recognize), then Bush is 10 points behind where he was in 2004. The crosstabs give us a better look at some of these figures. Two interesting statistics jump out at me.
1. Approval/disapproval among independents in the Sixth is 52-46. Self-identified Repbulicans outnumber Democrats in this district by two points, but if independents view this election as a referendum on Bush-- and with Bachmann's ties to Bush, that's plausible-- then the difference could be made up if more independents (28% of the electorate) go for Wetterling than for Bachmann.

2. As expected, Bush's disapproval rating among Democrats is very high, at 89 percent. Conversely, the Republican approval rate is 83%. Combine that six-point differential with the 11% of Repbublicans "unsure" about Bush (compared to 4% of Dems) and there is another slight trend favoring Wetterling. Those Republicans who disapprove or have mixed feelings about Bush may not decide to pack it in and vote for Wetterling, but they may be turned off to Bachmann and decide not to bother voting at all.

There's probably more good stuff in the details of the poll, but I must retire for the evening. I'll leave you with a few reminders of the Bush-Bachmann connection.

Bachmann gushing about "The President" [sic]

What an honor it was to have the President of the United States here on my behalf. Hopefully, you were able to see some of the coverage on television, heard about it on the radio or saw an article in the newspaper.

After President Bush participated in a Health Care Forum in Minnetonka, I was able to join him, Governor Tim Pawlenty, US Senator Norm Coleman and White House Advisor Karl Rove for the limousine ride to my event. On the way to the Jundt home in Wayzata, we were informed we were going to make a stop. Little did we know what a treat it would be for us, literally and a treat for the unsuspecting customers at Glaciers Custard and Coffee Café.

I have never been in the Presidential limousine before so I was a little unsure what to do when the limousine stopped at the custard stand. I wasn't sure if I should exit with the President or get out of my side of the car. Karl Rove told me I would exit out the door on my side after The President steps out and someone would open the door for me. I could not believe I was discussing what flavor of custard to order with the President of the United States!

President Bush was so incredibly engaging with the servers. He actually stuck half of his body through the order window and asked, "Can anybody get some custard here." It was fun to see the excitement in the people's faces when it dawned on them that President Bush was in the same line to order custard. People were whipping out their cell phones to call loved one to say, you will not believe who is here. Everyone wanted to get their picture taken with him.

Always the mom, I thought, we need napkins. I asked the President if he had a napkin and he said no. So, I had to quickly grab napkins. I cannot imagine dripping custard in the Presidential limousine.

President Bush and I did share our custards with Governor Pawlenty, Senator Coleman and Karl Rove. Every bit of custard was gone well before we arrived at the Jundt home!

As we were driving, President Bush was constantly waving to people along the streets. I was struck by the humility he has towards his role as President of the United States. He enjoys connecting with people, even ever so briefly, and having them feel they have made contact with the President of the United States. I turned around and looked out the back window. The expressions on people's faces were priceless. They were just ecstatic when they realized The President had just waved at them.

If they were ecstatic, I can not even put into words the honor and joy I felt from having the support of The President.