Anderson internal poll shows tight, volatile DFL race in MN-8

An internal polling battle is afoot in MN-8.

Last week Tarryl Clark released an internal poll showing a tight-three way race for the DFL nomination in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District. Her poll also involved some follow-up questioning that she said showed voters would be inclined to support her once they knew more about her.

The next day I heard from one of her opponents, Jeff Anderson, showing a March 27 internal poll his campaign had conducted. Like Clark’s, his poll shows a tight three way race upon initial questioning, a large number of undecided voters, and follow-up surveying that he thought boded well for his cause. As you might expect, Anderson’s poll contradicts some of the arguments Clark made in her polling memo. This is part of the memo from D.C.-based Lincoln Park Strategies (emphasis mine):

Our survey of likely 2012 primary election voters1 reveals an extremely close race for the DFL nomination in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District. At this time, former Congressman Rick Nolan leads with 19 percent, and both former State Senator Tarryl Clark and Duluth City Council Member Jeff Anderson garnering 16 percent support. With four months remaining before the primary, this race remains wide-open as most voters (49 percent) have yet to decide on which candidate to support.

Over the next four months this race will come down to who has the best story to tell and who can make the strongest connections with undecided voters. Our polling shows Councilmember Anderson in a strong position given his background and lifelong connection to the district. Indeed, not only does Anderson currently enjoy a lead in the more populous section of the district2 (21 percent support, followed by Nolan at 17 percent and Clark at 13 percent), after hearing a brief description of each candidate’s background, 29 percent of undecided primary voters would be more likely to support a candidate of Anderson’s background compared to just 5 percent favoring a candidate with Nolan’s background and 3 percent favoring Clark’s.

Additionally, Clark could have some problems with her issues of residency as voters start to tune into the race. Not only does our polling show that 83 percent of voters feel it is important for a candidate to reside in the 8th district if they want to run for Congress, a strong majority of respondents (61 percent) say that they would be less likely to support a candidate who moved to the district in order to run for office (including 52 percent of Clark supporters).

What’s interesting is that the two polls do seem to agree on one thing. Without prompting, the candidates seem to be locked in a three-way scrum down in the teens and 20s. Most people haven’t made up their mind yet. The DFL endorsement is one thing that will probably influence the contest. Advertising and campaign strategy is another.

Further, Clark used her poll to dig at Rick Nolan. Anderson used his to dig at Clark. We are watching these candidates try to figure out how to carve out an electoral coalition to get them to the 38-45 percent necessary to win the DFL primary in August.

As before, I’ve posted the memo Anderson sent me below the jump (click on post title).

Anderson Polling Memo – April 9, 2012

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