Updated: 08/26/2014 9:15 AM
Created: 08/25/2014 10:43 PM KSTP.com
By: Tom Hauser
After winning his 2008 election to the U.S. Senate by the narrowest of margins, Sen. Al Franken starts his 2014 general election campaign with a nine-point lead over Republican challenger Mike McFadden.
According to our exclusive new KSTP/SurveyUSA poll, Franken leads McFadden 51 percent to 42 percent. Independence Party candidate Steve Carlson is at two percent, while two percent favor other candidates and three percent are undecided. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.
The same poll also gives Franken his highest approval rating in five years of KSTP/SurveyUSA polling. At 56 percent, his approval rating is only three points lower than Senator Amy Klobuchar. The biggest reason for Franken's approval topping 50 percent is because more independents approve of Franken's job performance than disapprove.
"This is very good news for Al Franken," says Larry Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota. "He's shaking some of his unpopularity."
However, with a single-digit lead, Franken is still potentially vulnerable. President Obama's approval rating remains near a historic low in Minnesota at 38 percent. According to the poll, 52 percent disapprove and 10 percent say they're not sure.
MNsure, Minnesota's version of health care insurance under the "Affordable Care Act," gets approval from just 27 percent of Minnesotans, while 48 percent disapprove and 25 percent still are not sure. Republicans are expected to tie Franken to his support of Obama and the "Affordable Care Act."
Jacobs expects McFadden and outside interest groups to spend a lot of money connecting Franken to the unpopular Obama and health care reform. "My sense is that lead is going to dwindle and dwindle quickly," says Jacobs.
By comparison with 2008, GOP incumbent Senator Norm Coleman had a 10-point lead over Franken in our September KSTP/SurveyUSA poll. Franken went on to win in a recount by 312 votes.
Our head-to-head match-ups are based on interviews with 600 "likely voters" across Minnesota. The approval ratings were based on interviews with 725 "registered voters," not all of whom are necessarily likely to vote. The poll was conducted from Aug. 19-21.