Stauber opens lead in Minnesota’s 8th District

Republican Pete Stauber opens a sudden and commanding lead in race for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District. This according to the latest New York Times/Siena College live tracking poll of the district.

Stauber leads by a stunning 15 points in the poll, 49 percent to Democrat Joe Radinovich’s 34 percent. Thirteen percent remain undecided. Independent Ray “Skip” Sandman was not included in the poll. His support hides somewhere in that undecided figure.

This result marks a huge shift in the race from the last Times/Siena poll of this race. In September Radinovich led by one point, 44-43, in a close race. Another poll showed a similar result weeks later.

The NY Times/Siena methodology allows the public to view the poll responses as they come in. In this case, Stauber led when the poll began last week and maintained a consistent lead each day of polling. For DFLers, it became grim, slow-motion footage of a train wreck. The poll closed Sunday night.

UPDATE: The Radinovich campaign responded to the poll, calling out the methodology of the more recent survey. Specifically, the new poll swung the partisan makeup of the voters 10 points toward Republicans, assuming that GOP voters would be much more enthusiastic than DFL voters. Pollsters weighted these results as though 37 percent of voters would be Republicans; 27 percent Democrats, and 29 percent independent.

The shift toward Stauber might be attributed to two factors. First, and probably foremost, President Trump’s popularity in the 8th District rebounded, most likely because of the economy. The poll showed the president’s job approval at 55 percent in the district. I’ve long argued that Stauber’s vote take will end up mirroring Trump’s approval rating.

Second, we can’t discount the unremitting negative ads hitting Radinovich in local media. Two per break during Sunday’s Vikings game. Meanwhile, Democrats and their aligned groups still haven’t hit Stauber very hard. Radinovich’s own ads, charming but toothless, struggle to break through the noise of an increasingly nationalized race.

In a particularly brazen twist Republican aligned Super PACs even hit Radinovich as a *threat* to Medicare. Their argument is that Radinovich would destroy Medicare by expanding it. In other words, more health care threatens health care. This from a party that has actually sought to reduce the size of Medicare at several points in recent history. And a party that actively supports the current broken system that maddeningly costs *more* than Medicare-for-all.

The point is, Radinovich’s central issue is being turned against him. He’s being defined by his opposition. When that happens to a candidate it bodes ill.

When this race started people didn’t know much about Radinovich or Stauber. What they now know comes from what they see in these simplistic negative ads. Stauber endeavors to express as few specific positions as possible, something Radinovich pointed out in the last debate. We talked about this at length in our recent episodes of Dig Deep.

Fact is, modern politics is ugly and untethered from policy. And voters seem to be responding favorably to the side that has been more negative and less specific about issues.

Perhaps voter attitudes haven’t calcified yet. Maybe there’s still some bounce. Another poll showing a closer race might prove this survey to be an outlier. But given the identical methodology of the September poll that Radinovich led, one can only conclude that the race has swung Stauber’s way.

Radinovich has three weeks to create a miracle. It’s the bottom of the seventh. The score is 8-1. Democrats cannot count on this seat in their math for retaking the U.S. House of Representatives. If they want to win this, they’ve got to generate much more DFL enthusiasm than this poll shows.


  1. David Gray says

    I don’t see much television advertising on this race, I experience it primarily through mass mailings. Both sides are highly negative in that format, and the quality is not very high.

    You ignore the possible impact of the Kavanaugh effect, which is manifesting itself in much of the United States, particularly in rural areas. There have been remarkable Republican surges in places like Tennessee and North Dakota. It wouldn’t be shocking if a similar dynamic was in play in the 8th District.

  2. I see ad after ad for both candidates in the Duluth market. Maybe it’s just the channels I watch, but I can’t turn on the TV without seeing constant ads for each.

    I don’t actually think Radinovich was ever ahead by one point at any time nor do I believe that Stauber is up by 15 points now. If I had to guess, I’d say that Stauber is actually up by 6-8 points. In 2014 and 2016, Rick Nolan beat Stuart Mills by less than one point. All things considered, here’s why I think Stauber wins fairly easily.

    1. Stauber is a stronger candidate than Mills was. He doesn’t have the spoiled rich guy image that Mills did (fairly or unfairly). His family (and extended family) is well known and well liked in the area. Anyone who’s had kids in hockey or other sports have shopped at his store. His work as a police officer and police union leader relates a lot better to the average person than Mills does.

    2. Radinovich is a significantly weaker candidate than Nolan. Nolan managed to appeal to both the older traditional DFL voters (union members, gun rights) and the younger more liberal urban dwellers in Duluth. I don’t think Radinovich will have trouble getting support from the latter, but will lose a good portion of the former to Stauber. And all of this is before the fact that Radinovich has a ridiculous number of speeding and parking tickets, with several unpaid even after the primary. I’m simply amazed that he didn’t take care of those beforehand and even more amazed that nobody on his campaign did a simple online background check and tell him to get those taken care of. It makes him look immature and very disorganized.

    It’ll be interesting to see if outside groups start pulling their ads for Radinovich after this poll. The fact that they’ve still been running them makes me think that they think that Joe can still win. My gut feeling is that it’ll take a lot of things falling toward Joe between now and election day for him to have a legitimate chance

  3. I’m seeing a lot of ads from both as well. Radinovich simply cannot counter Stauber in any meaningful way. His lack of life experience outside of political ops is glaring.

  4. Iska Waran says

    If Stauber is poised to win by close to 10 points, then Republican Dave Hughes – next door in MN 7 – may be poised to knock off 14 term democrat Colin Peterson. Hughes came within 5 points of Peterson in 2016, MN7 has been trending Republican over the last several cycles and the 7th has a 12 point Republican Party Voting Index (according to Cook).

  5. David Gray says

    I suspect the Duluth television market sees things things somewhat differently from the rest of the district

  6. Joe musich says

    I do not watch tevee down her in Mpls. My partner has the news on before the late night shows. The GOP is throwing up ads against the Dem that make Willie Horton ad look innocent. The Dem is probably too young for the district. I guess that is what happens when the young are driven out. Any ads down here seem to make the Dem look younger then he is. I would suggest the Dems start painting the GOP candidate as a vampire preparing to bite the innocent neck of district crafting the outline to look like a head and neck. The vampire looking like Stauber the stabber would be draining the district resources for him and his. The list would include healthcare, mining profit, environmental health, education. You know just about all of it. Stauber would be carrrying his liquid spoils away from the north country laughing at the forlorn people left behind, because that will be exactly what happens.

  7. I guess stoppiing a brother from committing suicide, or coming through some very tough teen years after having your mother murdered don’t count as life experiences. Now if only he’d paid more attention to those tickets…

    • independant says

      Those are no doubt tragic and difficult issues to deal with at any age. However it isn’t enough to out weigh his lacking life experiences when stacked next to Stauber. Stauber seems to me to come off as someone far more in touch with his community. I could be wrong but that is how I see things anyway.

  8. Marc Johnson says

    Radinovich is an incredibly weak candidate for our district. He’s a 32 year old “career politician.” Think about that. His ads are horrendous as it seems he has no platform other than healthcare. Sounds like he is an outstanding “family guy” and feel bad for everything his family has gone through, but if that’s the best message he’s got to relate to working class voters than he’s in serious trouble. I don’t believe this poll at all but wouldn’t be surprised if Stauber wins by 5 points.

  9. Putting aside the cascade of pure personal opinion above, the results of this poll raise some interesting questions.

    The 16 point shift in results is really dramatic, and very interesting. The question is, is it real, and if it is real, what is the cause.

    The possibility of it being completely wrong seems strange. If it is wrong, one thing that I find interesting is the degree of transparency the NY Times has engaged in in doing this polling — you can read a detailed discussion of their technique and results in the same place the poll was published. This may possibly make it more possible to create a false result, but that seems a bit paranoid to me and to require and degree of organization that usually does not occur in Minnesota’s and CD8’s chaotic politics.

    The poll could be the result of the Kavanaugh hearings, but if that many people in Northeastern Minnesota find it extraordinarily offensive that a woman had the temerity to report that a very successful white male once assaulted her, that is pretty depressing. I could believe a two or three point shift, but this puts us into “The Handmaid’s Tale” territory, which is still science fiction, I hope.

    The GOP has launched a campaign meme saying that Medicare for All, which Radinovich has endorsed, would “destroy Medicare as we know it.” This is an interesting tactic, since a minimal investigation would show that Medicare for All would actually improve Medicare for seniors, since it would offer coverage of dental and nursing home care and would improve coverage for prescription drugs, and would reduce out of pocket expenses for premiums and cost sharing. But Medicare is an extremely sensitive political issue, and this ad is being repeated a lot, whereas the true information takes a bit of effort to locate, so maybe.

    The other meme going around, cited in another entry on this blog, is that Radinovich opposes nonferrous mining. This is based on Stauber advertising and speeches, and refers to Radinovich’s pledge to back nonferrous mining “if it can be done safely.” The problem here is that there have been op eds and legislative efforts by mining supporters and companies that suggest that they feel that mining cannot be done safely and profitably, at least at current or foreseeable metal prices and that consequently a true mining supporter must declare that he supports mining even if it can’t be done safely, which seems to be what Stauber and his supporters are saying.

    Other issues — Radinovich’s age, his experience, his driving record, and so on — have actually been around back when Radinovich was leading the polls by a narrow margin, so it is unlikely to relate to that. Plus Stauber has been the victim of a couple of setbacks lately. He got caught making a major pronouncement, either out of ignorance or in a deliberate lie, that turned out to be untrue — that the GOP leadership of Congress and President Trump have no proposals to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security if necessary to fix the huge deficits being generated by the new tax plan, when simple reference to their past speeches would reveal they have in fact discussed that, acknowledged even by the Duluth News Tribune, which has effectively been a Stauber campaign organ during the election. He also seems to be in jeopardy of having his emails back and forth with the Republican National Committee that violate the rules of use of public resources by elected officials made public, so it is not as if Stauber is actually tearing it up in his election campaign.

    Anyhow, puzzling result. I have no reason to doubt that it is true, and we will have to wait to see what happens in the final result.

    • but then again Gerald maybe all of those R/D Trump voters who supported Joe as a fall back plan in the primary, are now going to stick with Trump and vote Stauber. Who would have thought it?

    • independant says

      That is one impressive cascade of pure personal opinion.

      • The business about Medicare is clearly factual since it is based on analysis by a Koch brothers foundation at George Mason University, as are the Stauber miscues — as I say, you even check the Duluth Stauber Tribune on that. The non-ferrous mining comment is factual. The questions about the impact of all of this, and the potential impact of the Kauvanaugh thing, are all speculative.

        • independant says


          • The NYTimes now has an article up defending the fact that the poll shifted so drastically in such a short interval. The major factor, they say, is that they have changed their estimate of how many people in CD8 are DFLers, how many Republicans, and how many Independents. This survey found that a significant plurality of people in CD8 were Republicans, so they used modeling in weighting responses that reflected the notion that there were many more Republicans than Democrats in the district. Minnesota is somewhat unusual in that we do not require party affiliation registration for voting, nor do we record and report the fact of what party a person votes for in a primary. The Times says that that makes them not choose to poll in many places in MN, since their model requires knowing how the party affiliation breaks down, but that they made an excepton for CD8 because of the hotness of the race.

            This, of course, contradicts the results of most elections in the last 20 years, when the majority of people in the district were Democrats. It is certainly possible that there has been an abrupt change in party affiliation in CD8, but it seems a bit strange as an assumption.

            JG speculated that a large number of Republican voters crossed over in the primary to vote DFL, presumably to back Radinovich over Lee. Given the fact that there was a very hot and reportedly very close GOP governor’s race on the ballet, ultimately won by the candidate significantly behind in polling, that seems unlikely.

            One thing that seems certain is that GOP enthusiasm, previously lagging far behind Democratic enthusiasm, has now picked up strikingly. That undoubtedly has an impact.

          • Trump did win MN-08 by like 15 points, but that hardly means there are that many more Republicans than Democrats in the district.

            I actually did cross over to vote in the Dem primary, more to help Erin Murphy and Keith Ellison than the congressional race. I voted for Michelle Lee (thinking she’d be the weakest candidate), but didn’t think it was a big deal as I thought and still think that Stauber beats any them. Had I known about Radinovich’s police record, I would have voted for him.

            Actually, Republican enthusiasm has caught up to Dem enthusiasm the past couple weeks after the huge overreach that Dems did in the Kavanaugh hearings.

  10. David Gray says

    It would not surprise me at all if the result of the poll was overstated.

  11. All the gerrymandering to include some of the northern suburbs in the 8th district is coming back to bite the dems. This is where Cravak came from to topple St. Oberstar. They are growing, we are shrinking. They are now approaching the population of the entire Minnesota side of the Duluth TV market.

    Even here I’m seeing and hearing a lot more support for Stauber than Radinovich. Remember that for a Republican to put out a yard or road sign around here is asking for trouble, yet many are.

    By the way, who’s running for Governor and Senator? I see or hear very little about those races.

  12. I’m puzzled why Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and health care coverage don’t seem to bigger topics for discussion in this race by the voters particularly when district 8 population age 50 plus is about 53%. Stauber’s statement on SS/Med was sparse with no detail, “This administration will not cut Medicare and will not cut Social Security–promises made, promises kept”. This is a blatant lie.
    The GOP has never been secretive they want to cut SS/Medicare and health care. They, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Rep Steve Stivers, Sen Pat Toomey, Sen John Thune, Rep Tom Cole and many more R’s openly declared they would have to cut “entitlements” even before they passed their deficit exploding tax cuts that mainly benefited the top 80%. The trojan horse tax cut with steep cuts.
    In the last week, congress quietly passed a budget outline with $1.8 trillion cut in health care costs. All non-Medicare health programs would be cut $1.3 trillion, nearly 30% by 2027, Medicaid cut $473 billion plus cuts to SNAP, SSI, EITC, unemployment insurance and military and civilian Federal employee pensions.
    There is an ongoing federal law suit by about 20 Republican led states that imperils the ACA protections for Americans with pre-existing health conditions, the popular ban that insurance companies cannot deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
    We are now old enough to collect SS and use Medicare with a supplemental insurance plan. We had delayed some non urgent health care until we were on Medicare and were very financially grateful we didn’t have to have those health issues taken care of before even though one of us was still employed with employer health insurance. I am worried how the GOP will chop away at SS/Medicare and health insurance in our lifetimes but I am much more worried for our adult children and grandchildren. What will remain of safety nets for them?
    We worked hard all of our working lives, helping the kids with their college educations and they are all hardworking, responsible people raising great grandkids, trying to save money for their futures which is very stressful with both parents having careers/jobs and paying astronomical daycare costs.
    I’m beyond furious that we and all other average Americans who have worked most of our adult years for those hard earned benefits while the GOP gives away trillions to corporations who then use it for stock buy backs and top 1% wealthy can buy more mcmansions, planes and yachts.

    • You will always fail to understand your fellow citizens when you assume they all share your presuppositions. You can argue their presuppositions are in error but that doesn’t make them dishonest. And you don’t seem to understand what the word “lie” means.

      Two things are clear and unavoidable. One is that Social Security cannot be sustained through the boomer retirement years without a degree of restructuring. The second, which Senator McConnell just recently observed, is that this restructuring cannot take place until both parties are prepared to act.

  13. iirc Mr Gray, you once commented that you’d be willing to get less from your social security if it would help sustain the program. So it’s ok with you that you’d be giving some of your SS earned benefit to pad the 1% coffers? GOP really knows their marks well.

    • David Gray says

      If you don’t wish to sustain Social Security you are much more radical than I am.

      • I think the question is not “if,” but rather “how” to sustain Social Security. GOP proposals tend to focus on cutting benefits in Social Security by raising the retirement age, cutting payouts either to all beneficiaries or to higher income beneficiaries, and other cuts. Democratic proposals primarily focus on raising the amount the Social Security Tax (FISA) collects, most specifically by raising the levels of income it applies to rather than cutting off the tax on higher amounts of income, by applying it to other forms of income beside wages, and perhaps by making the tax progressive. It currently, of course, is a flat tax that applies to the first dollar earned and collects tax at the same rate for higher incomes, but stops, this year, at $128,400, with income above that level not taxed. It also does not apply to various forms of “unearned” income, including profits from capital gains, dividends, rental income, and interest.

        Both approaches would work to sustain Social Security, the one by cutting benefits, the other by raising taxes on higher income earners. Which you prefer pretty much says it all as far as differences between the parties.

        • David Gray says

          I think it is overly optimistic to think that both approaches will be required to some degree.

          • David Gray says

            Make that “I think it is overly optimistic to think that both approaches will not be required to some degree.”

          • You may be correct, but at this time the leaders and politicians of each party are one hundred percent behind their own approach and largely opposed to the other approach. In terms of polling on the issue, the tax approach is a much more popular approach among the general population, with even people who describe themselves as Republicans in favor of it in majority numbers, and the benefit cuts are very unpopular, with only small minorities favoring them.

            This is, of course, clearly a question of “whose ox is being gored?” The tax changes would fall almost entirely on people in the top 1% to 2% of the income range, whereas the cuts would have most of their impact on the working class and middle class, since Social Security is usually not a factor of any great importance for wealthy people.

  14. The most interesting potential fallout of the poll to me is the possibility that environmental and far left voters may take this as evidence that Radinovich does not have a chance to win, and that they can then feel free to vote for Sandman without actually electing Stauber. I personally doubt that the numbers in November will show a large enough spread to allow for Sandman votes to not help Stauber to win, especially if Sandman exceeds his 2014 total, but that is just opinion.

    Meanwhile, the Timberjay drills down into the numbers on the poll.,14491

    I agree that CD8, at least outside Duluth, is trending GOP. It is actually surprising that it has not been trending that way more strongly, since it has the profile — white, older, blue collar, low levels of post secondary education, low median income — typically seen in districts that have shifted to the GOP in the last 30 years, so perhaps the district is just playing catch up. As I noted above, and as the Timberjay notes, the NYTimes’ presumed alignment of the district for Republican, Independent, and Democratic voters is different from past experience, but things do change. The polling editor for the Times sounds almost offended that Minnesota does not track party registration in public records, since that makes it hard for him and his staff to run their algorithms, which depend on knowing the distribution of party affiliation to work.

    The Times and the MNPost both ran articles today suggesting that Stauber could be the only Republican to take a previously Democratic seat this fall. If that is so, he may rapidly become a GOP star, and be a strong candidate for either Senate or Governor if the DFL wins those seats. Perhaps he will get more help from the national party to help him avoid future bumbling in forums and interviews like he has been dogged by in this race.

    Once again, we await the results.

  15. David Gray says

    Clearly means testing benefits would impact those of “means” not those at the bottom end of the economic spectrum.

    • However, the big GOP idea to cut Social Security benefits is to raise the retirement age, perhaps as high as 70 or even 72. This has a disproportionate impact on people who do physical work and people who will depend on Social Security as their main source of retirement income.

      Raising the retirement age is important to GOP plans simply because the means testing would not recover enough money to make much of an impact unless it is extended to impact people in the middle income and even working class classification. To save enough money to make a difference, cuts must affect people well down the income scale. It’s the Willy Sutton rule.

  16. Personally, I believe the Democrats are doomed in general. They don’t get it. The whole thing is funny, yet tragic. It is the frigging pathos. That’s not just a NE MN thing. Most US citizens don’t appreciate too much pathos.

    The Obamas were all Ethos. No one ever discusses that, or seems to realize. They were, though. Yes We Can!

    The Clintons had control of the Democrat machine. So Bernie got axed. Meantime the Clinton National Convention was a pathos laden monstrosity that looked eerily similar to the MTV Awards (with more pathos somehow). People, celebrities mainly, went one after the other ranting about their victim hood and how they were, “With Her.” Delegates were actually referred to as “Fans,” and I am not making that up. Reporters were like, “Let’s interview some Clinton fans. How are the Bernie fans feeling?” Fans?

    The entire identity movement has displaced any notion of “Us” or “We” in favor of I and Me. The left was always dependent upon a We, not an I. All the identity movement does is make people individual victims. Everyone fell under the Wellstone umbrella. That’s all completely gone now.

    Polity agency is determined by personal description now.

    • Political Agency determined by personal description.

      Hope link is all right Aaron. But that political agency sentence is not mine so I feel obligated to cite. Also, the link between Alt right and the left’s identity politics is worth examining and noting. So I have to cite source and provide link:

    • You may be correct that the Democrats are doomed. The current alliance between the far right Trump supporters and the far left Democrats is working hard to eliminate many Democratic candidates and officeholders, leaving the far right as the winner.

      The Democratic Party has long been a tangled and somewhat clumsy alliance between the far left, the labor movement, women and minorities, and people who are in some ways conservative, especially on financial issues, but who oppose the GOP because of GOP stances on science issues and social issues (women’s rights and health care, abortion, immigration and asylum, issues of racial justice, LGBTQ issues, net neutrality, etc.)

      If the far left wants to tell labor and the social issue Democrats “either you go or we go,” that alliance will blow apart, leaving no effective opposition to the Trump movement. That seems to be what some people on the left want, apparently assuming that in the absence of the old Democratic Party, opposition to the right will coalesce around their cause. I tend to doubt that will happen, but we might get a chance to see. And we may be getting a preview of that right now in good old CD8.

  17. Oh for crying out loud. Talking about the political parties dying while our country is going down the sewer. We have a president that is demonstratively and unquestioningly mentally ill, in speech and in actions, aided and abetted by the GOP.

    We have relatives who travel the world extensively. I’ve lost track of all the countries they have visited. They say overseas people always ask them how this travesty could happen to the US and how sorry they feel for us.

    • David Gray says

      I lived overseas for six years. I wouldn’t lean too hard on tourists for comprehending the political attitudes of a general populace.

  18. We have military family, some who served in combat zones and they are not impressed with the leadership of the commander-in-chief, to put it mildly.
    The people who have eagerly embraced trumpism know he is a serial liar and totally corrupt but they don’t care about his lies or what happens to their country or their families. Some hold their noses to gain money and power. Others love that is he meaner than a rabid skunk. Faustian bargains.

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