MINNEAPOLIS -- Nearly a week before the DFL primary, three Democrats running for governor are locked in a tight race, according to a recent poll. Even the candidates admit, the race is too close to call.
The Star Tribune's Minnesota Poll, which was published Sunday, shows Mark Dayton leading the pack among likely DFL primary voters. The polls showed Dayton with 40 percent, Margaret Anderson Kelliher with 30 percent and Matt Entenza with 17 percent.
"I say a good poll is like perfume: it's alright to take a whiff of it, but if you swallow it, you're in trouble," Dayton said.
The poll said the DFL race is too close to call because the margin of error is 7.8 percent. Undecided voters totaled 12 percent.
"It's anyone's ballgame, as long as you've got the ground game," Entenza told KARE 11. "We've got the targeting, we believe we've identified the voters and we feel very confident we can win."
The poll also said Democrats are ahead of Republican Tom Emmer. In head-to-head match ups, Dayton led Emmer 40 to 30 percent and Kelliher led Emmer 38 to 29 percent. Entenza also led Emmer, but that lead was within the margin of error.
Political expert David Schultz, a professor at Hamline University, was not surprised by the poll results because Democrats have run so many ads lately, some of which are anti-Emmer.
"The candidate from a party that doesn't face serious competition in the primary often time fades in the polls for a while because people just aren't aware of what's going on," Schultz said.
Emmer's campaign spokesman Bill Walsh said Emmer has run a single ad yet, but has been the subject of "an unprecedented, early barrage of negative attacks." He expects things to change after the primary, and thinks Emmer will poll well when asked about specific issues, like the economy.
The three DFL candidates faced off Sunday in a televised debate, sponsored by KSTP-TV and the League of Women Voters. For the most part, the candidates declined to attack each other, although they were allowed to question each other at one point in the debate.
While discussing campaign finance reform, Kelliher asked to Entenza to disclose his assets and income taxes.
"Matt, the kind-of campaign you've run is AstroTurf, the kind that you buy," Kelliher said. "We have a real grassroots campaign here."
Entenza said he wishes the state has passed real campaign finance reform. "I find it more than ironic to see you engage in a sort-of partisan bickering back and forth, when as speaker, you failed to pass a single bill that would've substantially moved that forward," he said.
Kelliher questioned Dayton's commitment to the job, referring to the fact he only served one term as U.S. Senator and gave himself an 'F' for performance.
"How are Minnesotans going to know that you're going to stay and fight and be able to complete the job?" Kelliher asked.
Dayton promised to serve two terms as governor, if given the opportunity.
"The people of Minnesota will know that I'm going to hold myself to a higher account than anyone else," Dayton said.
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