Color me as skeptical about this result from KSTP/Survey USA as I am about Team Trump’s claims of winning Minnesota this November. And maybe Joe Biden’s equally skeptical about his purported nine-point lead in the state, too. It’s not just the five-point-plus margin of error in the poll released last night that calls this result into question, either. Biden’s support in the core Metro area looks too soft for a nine-point cushion, and that’s not the only problem he faces with Donald Trump in this poll — and in the context of recent events:
President Donald Trump likes to say if he had campaigned in Minnesota one more time in 2016 he would have beaten Hillary Clinton here. Instead, Clinton narrowly defeated Trump in Minnesota even though Clinton didn’t campaign here even once.
It turns out Trump might need multiple visits to win Minnesota in 2020. According to our new KSTP/SurveyUSA poll, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump 49% to 40%, with 7% undecided and 4% considering other candidates. That’s compared to our final 2016 poll showing Clinton leading Trump 49% to 39% and then clinging to a victory of just 1.5%.
First off, as Tom Hauser notes, this survey series missed pretty badly in 2016. Their final call on the race showed Hillary Clinton up by ten points in the state, but instead she narrowly won by less than 1.5 points. The KSTP/SUSA surveys vastly overestimated turnout for Clinton in Minnesota, missing the fact that she wasn’t generating enthusiasm among Barack Obama voters, dropping nearly 200,000 of them in the election. Trump and his barely-there GOTV ground effort only grew the GOP vote by 2,000 voters, but that was enough to be the closest Republican to take Minnesota since 1972.
One has to wonder, looking at these numbers, if they’re not making the same mistake all over again — especially given the fact that only Trump and the RNC are actually conducting ground operations here and elsewhere in 2020. Even without that issue, Biden’s relatively anemic numbers in the Metro area should be a red flag:
The poll tells a tale of two Minnesotas: the urban core of Minneapolis and St. Paul and the rural areas of Greater Minnesota. Biden leads 55% to 34% in the Twin Cities. He has a much smaller lead in southern Minnesota, including Rochester, where he leads 48% to 44%. However, Trump has a commanding lead in northeastern Minnesota, 61% to 37%. He also has a big lead in western Minnesota, including much of the 7th Congressional District, 48% to 29%.
A Democrat who gets only 55% in the Twin Cities — especially against Trump — is not one headed to an easy victory in Minnesota. In 2016, Clinton won in the Twin Cities by a 64/28 margin — and still barely escaped with the state’s electoral votes. If Trump has gained six points in the Twin Cities since 2016, that seems like a rather big accomplishment. Also, Trump only carried the northeastern part of the state 56/37 in 2016, so a 61/37 split now suggests at least a little more enthusiasm. Put that together with a much-improved GOTV effort and Biden’s utter lack of such, and that doesn’t bode well for Democrats.
Another point: This poll seems to be an outlier, both in the presidential race and in the Senate race. Jason Lewis trails in other polling against incumbent Democrat Tina Smith, but not nearly to the 11-point extent seen in this poll. Democratic homer pollster PPP only had Smith up eight last week, and independent Emerson put it in a virtual tie at 48/45 in August. Trafalgar, which is a GOP-aligned pollster but who used a much larger likely-voter sample, had the presidential race tied three weeks ago.
Plus, this doesn’t look like Team Biden thinks they’re dominating the field in MN:
BREAKING: Joe Biden will make his first 2020 campaign stop in Minnesota next week, his campaign announced. No additional details were immediately available. https://t.co/5AaHEczXnx
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) September 10, 2020
Finally, turnout matters here just like everywhere else. Biden hasn’t yet made an appearance in Minnesota, while both Trump and Mike Pence have campaigned here this summer and will likely do so again. The unrest, rioting, and destruction in Minneapolis will not likely produce a stronger turnout, either by mail or in person, than we saw in 2016. It seems far more likely that Biden will struggle just to perform at Clinton’s level instead, with no GOTV and no personal appearances to stoke enthusiasm. I’d still bet that the state stays blue, but it’s a lot more up for grabs than this poll’s toplines show.