The last time Minnesota cast its electoral votes for a Republican running for President was 1972. Even Ronald Reagan failed to win the state in both back-to-back landslide elections. It has elected Republicans to the occasional state-wide office, but for President, it is a deep indigo blue. Except, perhaps, this year. A new poll released this morning by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune finds the race essentially tied. Obama holds a slim 3-point lead but, at 47% support, is below the critical 50% threshold.
To be fair, Minnesota wasn’t really part of Obama’s firewall for his reelection hopes. It was more of a redoubt. It was state, like California or Illinois, which would absolutely support Obama’s reelection. That we are even discussing the possible vote in MN, just a little over a week before the election, is a flashing sign of the troubles plaguing Obama’s campaign.
Last month, the newspaper’s poll showed Obama with an 8-point lead. But that 5-point drop in support isn’t the worst news for Obama in the poll. The number of voters identifying themselves as Republican has surged. In last month’s poll, Democrats had a 13-point edge in the sample, 41-28. Today’s poll, however, only gives them a 5-point edge, 38-33. An 8-point swing in one month is extraordinary.
In 2008, the overall electorate had a Democrat advantage of 4 points, so Republicans still have some room to grow here. Especially considering Obama’s collapse in certain voter sub-groups. In 2008, Obama won independents by 17 points. Today, he leads by 6. He won men by 3 points; today he trails by 13. He won women by 16; today, in spite of a singular focus on what Democrats consider women’s issues, his support is slightly lower at 14 points.
My colleague, Joel Pollak, noted Friday that the race in Minnesota appeared to be tightening. Today’s poll confirms that his instincts were right.
I noted a while back that the best indicator of the state of the race in the final days was to see which states were becoming competitive. When a candidate’s “safe” states suddenly look more competitive, that candidate is in trouble. If your opponent’s “safe” states are more competitive, then you are gathering momentum.
The upper Midwest has always been a solid block for the Democrats. This year, however, it may very well bring the Obama presidency to a swift end.