As the presidential race tightens across the country, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found that it is narrowing here as well, with President Obama holding a 3-point lead and Republican Mitt Romney making gains in the state.There's a better reason for this, which we'll get to in a minute. The next observation is weird, though:
The poll shows Obama with support from 47 percent of likely voters and Romney earning backing from 44 percent -- a lead within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Last month, Obama had an 8-percentage point advantage in the Minnesota Poll. Romney has apparently cut into the Democrat's advantage among women since then and picked up support from Minnesotans who were previously undecided or said they would vote for a third-party candidate.
Independents, on the other hand, are leaning more toward Obama. Barely a third supported him last month, but that number has grown to 43 percent. Romney's support among independents remains virtually unchanged, with 13 percent of that group remaining undecided.
This finding runs counter to what's happening nearly everywhere else. A few brief thoughts:
- I suspect the polls have moved Romney's way for a variety of reasons, but the most important one is this -- the sample on this poll is a lot closer to reality than the last one. The initial Minnesota Poll in this cycle was D +13, while this one is D +5. D +5 seems a lot closer to reality to me.
- I've long believed that a lot of independents aren't really that independent; they just don't want to declare a party. I think that's especially true in Minnesota, where there are a lot of people who are really DFLers but don't want to admit it. That would explain the result here.
- Do I think Romney will actually win Minnesota? Probably not, but it is closer than a lot of people thought. Minnesota is slowly trending Republican and it would not surprise me if it finally flips the other way in the next decade, as the blue state model fails here and elsewhere. But we aren't there yet.