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Minnesota: Coleman Opens Up Lead in New Star-Tribune Poll

Correction Appended

Sen. Norm Coleman (R) is sitting pretty this week after a Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll showed him leading all of his Democratic opponents.

In the survey, Coleman topped the likely Democratic nominee, comedian Al Franken, 51 percent to 44 percent, with 5 percent undecided. Coleman also led the less well-known Democratic candidate, anti-war activist Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, 53 percent to 38 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

Voters were also asked about attorney Mike Ciresi (D), who dropped out of the race earlier this year. Coleman led that matchup 51 percent to 43 percent with 6 percent undecided.

The Gopher State Senate race promises to be one of the most hotly contested and negative campaigns of the cycle, with national groups on both sides planning to weigh in.

The poll, sponsored by the newspaper, was conducted May 12-15 among 1,117 registered voters and had a margin of error of 3.6 points.

This is one of the more commanding leads that Coleman has had over his opponents so far this cycle, compared to other publicly released polls. One explanation may be because Franken recently endured a month of bad headlines after it was revealed that his corporation’s taxes were filed incorrectly in two states, costing more than $30,000 in penalties. Most recently, Franken’s campaign also revealed that his personal income taxes had been filed incorrectly in 17 states, a mistake by his accountant that totalled about $70,000 in financial errors.

The Star-Tribune’s poll also asked 1,203 adults statewide about Franken’s tax problems. Of those surveyed, 43 percent said they were satisfied with the way Franken handled the situation, 42 percent said they were not satisfied, and 15 percent were not aware of the issue or did not have a response. The survey was conducted in early May and had a 3-point error margin.

Van Hollen Stumps for Madia; NRCC Attacks

Iraq War veteran Ashwin Madia got a visit from the big guns this past weekend. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) visited Madia to show the party’s support for his campaign and raise money for the newly endorsed candidate.

Madia defeated a state Senator last month in a hotly contested battle to earn the 3rd district Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s endorsement. And now that he’s the only Democrat in the race, Madia will face state Rep. Erik Paulsen (R) in November, in what many operatives expect to be one of Democrats’ best open-seat pickup opportunities in the country.

“This fall, Minnesota families will have a choice between a candidate like Erik Paulsen, who is an ideologue in the Bush–Cheney mold, and Ashwin Madia, who embodies change,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

According to the Madia campaign, Van Hollen did a series of fundraising events in the Twin Cities area Friday.

Ken Spain, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Van Hollen’s trip shows his allegiance to the Democrats’ “left-wing army.”

“Chris Van Hollen and liberal Democrat donors are showering Ashwin Madia with campaign cash because they know he knows he will be a loyal soldier in Nancy Pelosi’s left-wing army,” Spain said in a statement. “His stated support for massive tax hikes and his opposition to the recently delivered economic stimulus package puts him further in line with the Marxist wing of the Democratic Party than it does with the needs of Minnesotans.”

Longtime moderate Rep. Jim Ramstad (R) is retiring, leaving the suburban Twin Cities seat open for the first time in more than 16 years.

— Shira Toeplitz

Correction: May 21, 2008

The article incorrectly listed the percentage of voters in a poll who felt that Democrat Al Franken had adequately handled a flap over his business taxes. Forty-three percent of the survey respondents said they were satisfied with the way Franken handled the situation.