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September 15, 2008

Independence's Day In Minnesota

Dean Barkley is crashing the party in Minnesota, and he's making his presence felt, a new poll shows. Barkley, the man who managed Jesse Ventura's race for the governor's mansion and served the final month and a half of the late Senator Paul Wellstone's term in 2002, will be an important factor in the already heated Senate race between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.

The poll, conducted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, surveyed 1106 likely voters between 9/10-12 for a margin of error of +/- 2.9%. Coleman, Franken and Barkley, the Independence Party nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Ind)
Coleman.........41 / 36
Franken.........37 / 30
Barkley.........13 / 24

Barkley was not included in the last Star Tribune poll of the race, conducted in May, but his impact is clear. Since that poll, Coleman has lost ten points of support while Franken is down seven.

It's no surprise that a third-party candidate has an opening to snag at least some support. Coleman and Franken have each raised and spent millions on paid advertisements slamming each other for months in the costliest and most negative race in the country so far this year.

Both candidates' attacks on each other have done damage. Just 42% of Minnesotans approve of Coleman's job performance, the lowest point at which he's ever registered in a Star Tribune poll, while 44% disapprove. A significant majority -- 62% -- say Coleman is someone who typically follows President Bush's lead, not something an incumbent Republican wants in when the president's approval rating resides near record lows. But Franken is no prize pig either. More respondents viewed him unfavorably than favorably.

Dean Barkley isn't going to win the Minnesota Senate race, but he could force the eventual winner well below 50%. And even though Barkley is taking votes away from Coleman, he's also taking votes away from Franken, who would normally benefit from anyone ready to boot the incumbent.