Thursday, October 11, 2012 By Aaron Brown
And now the polls. We've long been waiting for an independent, public pollster's snapshot of this district. Two years ago it was Survey USA's poll that showed Cravaack rapidly gaining on Jim Oberstar. There was much hand-wringing by the DFL about the crosstabs of that poll -- heck, from me, too. But crosstabs be damned, the topline was about right at the time.
The SUSA October 2012 topline: Nolan 46, Cravaack 45. It's a statistical tie, with a slight edge to the challenger.
I still see odd things in the crosstabs of this one. For instance, I don't see why Romney and Cravaack would both lead in cell-phone only households. But I must admit the the totals "feel" about right.
Meantime, the Nolan campaign has released results of an internal poll by a firm called Victoria Research showing Nolan with a 48-44 lead. Their poll also claims a 63 percent negative job approval of Cravaack. Naturally, we don't have crosstabs on the campaign poll.
These polls show that Democratic Party surveys showing a close race in August were right and that millions of dollars spent have jiggled, but not moved, the needles. And hey, why not? An 18-month DFL primary campaign didn't change the conventional wisdom either. Cravaack has now raised almost $2 million, including almost half a million this last quarter. We're going to see a lot more ads. And maybe those ads will help Cravaack pull ahead, as he did in 2010. This one in particular, aimed at peeling off Iron Range Democratic voters, is crushingly good:
But Cravaack's path to victory is just as narrow as Nolan's. His ceiling is right where he left it -- dang near 50 percent. The only thing that will stop this madness is when we drive the wooden stake of our vote into the vampire carcass that is this election on Nov. 6. Then we'll really know. A Nolan victory makes us a DFL-leaning swing district. A Cravaack victory makes it a GOP-leaning swinger, though a two-term Cravaack would probably be even harder to beat in the future.
But let's go back to that SUSA poll. What's funny about it is that the demographic breakdown looks like the opposite of most partisan races. Younger people are seen favoring Cravaack, the conservative Republican, while older voters seem to support Nolan, the progressive Democrat. I know a lot of my blog pals will be quick to call "bull" on that, and I do think that it's really hard to phone poll young people and young families for a lot of logistical reasons. Nevertheless, I will go out on a limb to drop this bombshell:
Young people who live and work in northern Minnesota are more conservative than their parents and considerably more conservative than their grandparents.
No, I don't think that they've been adding Essence d'Edmund Burke into the drinking water or anything. It's not that young people here have gone through an ideological transformation fueled by academic research of governing philosophies. Liberal parents are still more likely to have liberal children. Conservative parents are more likely to have conservative children. The issue is that some children grew up to live here, work here and vote here. Other children grow up to move to Duluth or Minneapolis. Guess which group is conservative and which is liberal?
On the Iron Range in particular we 20- and 30-somethings are sorting ourselves. My most liberal friends, with a few exceptions, have by and large tracked to a city. Keith Ellison will get as many Range youth votes as Rick Nolan does. My most conservative friends, with a few exceptions, are still here. And most of them are likely to vote for Cravaack. I think this is happening all over the "woods and waters" region of the 8th District. There will remain conservatives and liberals on the Range, but the old 80-20 days of DFL victories will be gone.
That sounds pretty rough for the DFL and it could well be. But there is a silver lining for Democrats. Duluth is gaining population and becoming more economically diverse. I dare say that Duluth is becoming more liberal while the Range is becoming more conservative, and that these changes more or less offset one another.
That is why this election is still close.
It boils down to the fact that this is the first time MN-8 has functioned as a pure toss-up swing district. We don't yet know how different voting populations will react to the vast amounts of spending and negative ads we're getting up here. Perhaps they will act "normally"; perhaps they will react differently.
But in the days after Election Day 2012 we'll be able to go through the map of the district and know much more about the 21st century composition of this vaunted political landscape.