October 03, 2018 09:28 AM
It's likely to be the most expensive congressional race in Minnesota during the 2018 midterm elections and it also might end up among the closest. With just over 30 days until Election Day, Democratic challenger Dean Phillips has a five-point lead over incumbent Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen, 49 percent to 44 percent, in our KSTP/SurveyUSA poll. Another eight percent remain undecided.
"I think Erik Paulsen has to be worried because he's not running as well with the voters as he did two years ago when he won by a comfortable 14 points," says political analyst Steven Schier of Carleton College. "It's an entirely different competition this time and he's got some serious disadvantages to contend with."
Among those disadvantages is a very low approval rating for Republican President Donald Trump in the 3rd District. Only 38 percent of 607 "likely voters" surveyed approve of the president's job performance while another 56 percent disapprove. That appears to be impacting Paulsen's approval rating. Just 41 percent approve of his performance with 44 percent disapproving. Democrats have frequently reminded voters Paulsen votes in line with Trump's positions up to 98 percent of the time.
Although Trump will be in Minnesota on Thursday, Paulsen will not be at a fundraiser Trump is attending or at a rally in Rochester. He says he plans to "focus on my own record of getting things done" and continue campaigning on his own.
Trump's poor approval rating in the 3rd District might also be contributing to a big "gender gap" among voters. Paulsen leads 50 percent to 43 percent among male, but Phillips leads 54 percent to 38 percent among women. Trump's disapproval rating among women in the district is 64 percent.
Paulsen says he can win back many of those female voters.
"I'm number three in the entire Congress for getting bipartisan co-authors of bills," Paulsen said. "That's really important for women and a lot of Minnesotans who just want to see their elected officials get things done."
Phillips says female voters are energized like never before.
"I've seen an extraordinary commitment of females on this campaign and around the country," he says. "Energy, participation. Many of whom are telling me that until this election year have never been politically engaged before."
Just as our other polling has shown, health care is by far the most important issue cited by voters. Among those who say it's the most important, 74 percent favor Phillips. Conversely, on the second most important issue, jobs and the economy, 77 percent support Paulsen.
Phillips says he'll continue to focus on the health care issue.
"There are too many people struggling with the cost of their health insurance," he says. "Too many people who are one illness away from bankruptcy."
Paulsen plans to key in on the health care issue by focusing on Phillips' proposal for a Medicare "buy-in" proposal he says would jeopardize the whole system and hurt seniors.
"I think voters are just getting to know Dean Phillips and the more they learn about him being a hypocrite, especially on health care, the more they're not going to like it," Paulsen told 5 Eyewitness News.
One of Paulsen's biggest problems contributing to him narrowly trailing his challenger is the fact that 17 percent of voters in our survey who voted for Paulsen in 2016 have defected to the Democrat side this time. He's also trailing among independents by 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent.
"I don't take too much stock in any single poll," Paulsen told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS at his Eden Prairie campaign office. "I'm going to fight hard, work hard and run hard no matter what."
Phillips, working out of his "Conversation Cottage" in downtown Excelsior, says he won't take his five-point lead for granted.
"A poll is a single snapshot in time," he says. "The one that matters most, of course, is coming up on November 6th."
Our KSTP/SurveyUSA poll was conducted Sept. 24 to 29. The respondents were reached on combination of landlines, cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices. It included 32 percent Republicans, 31 percent Democrats and 34 percent independents.
Updated: October 03, 2018 09:28 AM
Created: October 02, 2018 08:08 PM
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