Mills poll shows Nolan up 3 points in MN-8

Nolanzilla vs. Mills Kong

Nolanzilla vs. Mills Kong

A Republican pollster says the campaign for Congress in Minnesota’s Eighth District is close. Nevertheless, the internal poll still shows Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN8) three points ahead of challenger Stewart Mills.

Democrat Nolan defeated Mills by less than 2 points in 2014, with a third party candidate running to Nolan’s left.

Mills is making another attempt in a presidential year, which typically provides the higher turnout that benefits Democrats in Minnesota.

The Republican poll, conducted by the Virginia-based Tarrance Group, also asked about the presidential race in the 8th District. In those numbers, Donald Trump led Hillary Clinton 43-40 with 11 percent undecided. Ted Cruz led Clinton 49-40 with 17 percent undecided.

Those numbers defy conventional wisdom about the Eighth, which is what the Mills campaign argued.

President Obama carried Minnesota’s 8th District 51-45 in 2012.

Typically, internal polls are done to advance a narrative as much as understand the actual lay of the land. In this case, Mills is showing that he’s within striking distance of Nolan. But no one really doubted that anyway. If anything, a Republican would probably hope to see Mills tied or leading in an internal poll.

It’s true that Nolan’s fate is probably at least somewhat tied to the volatile presidential race. But it’s pointless to try to understand that race until the chaos in the Republican party reveals an actual nominee. Further, we won’t really know where Clinton stands until the Democratic nomination is secure. (Sorry Sanders supporters, I am of the belief that this is a question of when, not if).

My analysis is that Nolan faces challenges in an aging, more conservative Eighth District. But I started the cycle thinking Nolan was slightly favored in this race, and this poll shows that still to be the case.  The presidential race could blow everything up, but not in any way that can be predicted yet.


  1. The critical thing for this election will be voter engagement in the presidential election. If both parties’ voters are highly engaged, the DFL will win the numbers game, and Nolan will win, most likely by a wider margin than in 2014. If one or the other parties finds that its presidential choice causes significant numbers of voters to stay home, the other party will benefit and its candidate will win. If the violent emotion of this primary season ends up causing large numbers of both parties’ voters to sit out, then the advantage will probably go to Mills and the GOP, since as a rule, even in Minnesota, the DFL tends to suffer more from general apathy about elections, since the GOP tends to have larger numbers of voters who vote regardless of their feelings about the individual election.

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