Poll: Minnesotans give Pawlenty high marks - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Poll: Minnesotans give Pawlenty high marks

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Minnesota voters give Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty high job-performance marks but are not as confident about the woman who could replace him, according to a new poll.

The poll, sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio and the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute, found 55 percent approved of Pawlenty's job performance while 39 percent disapproved.

Pawlenty's approval was predictably strong among Republicans at 87 percent. But 59 percent of independents and even 30 percent of Democrats said they think the second-term governor is doing a good job.

Pawlenty enjoys broad popularity at a time when other Republicans don't, said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Humphrey Institute.

"Tim Pawlenty is like a skipper of a ship that's in rocky seas," Jacobs said. "Things have gone kind of haywire in the water, but somehow he's able to keep a pretty steady level of support among Minnesotans during a period when there are some real challenging and a period in which the campaigns are clearly starting to pick up speed and become a little rougher."

A Star Tribune Minnesota poll in May found 54 percent of Minnesotans approved of the job Pawlenty is doing while 37 percent disapproved.

Pawlenty is not up for re-election this year, but he's frequently mentioned as a potential running mate for John McCain, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

If Pawlenty would become vice president, Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau would fill out the remainder of his term as governor. The DFL-controlled Senate ousted Molnau earlier this year from her other job as state transportation commissioner.

The MPR/Humphrey Institute poll found 37 percent of voters are not very confident in the job Molnau would do as governor. Jacobs said even one in four Republicans had doubts about Molnau.

"What we're seeing is that Carol Molnau would have her hands full in building and enjoying the confidence of Minnesotans and of obviously the Legislature," Jacobs said. "It appears that she would come in as a fairly weak governor, and one who will face some real challenges. She is not Tim Pawlenty."

Pawlenty's spokesman, Brian McClung, said the governor is grateful for his strong approval rating. But McClung isn't concerned about the less favorable attitudes toward Molnau, who he said isn't as well known as the governor.

"It's a different position," McClung said. "It's a position that's a little more behind the scenes. So, the people of Minnesota, and I think the poll reflects that there's still a pretty large percentage of Minnesotans that don't really have an opinion or don't feel they know her well enough to state."

Whichever Republican is sitting in the governor's office next year might be dealing with a Minnesota House with an even stronger DFL majority. Poll respondents favored Democratic legislative candidates over Republicans 49 percent to 39 percent.

DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis said the poll numbers show voters are enthusiastic about her party's candidates.

"They are also, I think, reacting to the fact that we've had two very productive legislative sessions where we've focused on issuers like energy independence, the economy, jobs, education and health care," she said. "And it's pretty clear from the poll that Minnesotans trust Democrats to deal with these issues."

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, questioned the poll sample, which he said had too many Democrats and too few independents. Seifert said a better poll would look at all 134 House districts.

"If you took the top 25 to 30 races in the state I think you'd see we're doing very well," Seifert said. "Our polling data shows we are doing well in the races that are competitive."

Jacobs, of the Humphrey Institute, said the telephone survey of 763 likely Minnesota voters is an accurate snapshot of voter opinion and party leanings between Aug. 7-17, when it was conducted. The poll's margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

The poll also found 72 percent of voters oppose a proposed constitutional amendment that will be on the November ballot to dedicate funding for water quality, wildlife habitat, trails and cultural programs, while 22 percent support the measure. The proposed funding would come from an increase in the state sales tax of 3/8 of 1 percent.

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