The Star Tribune's first election year poll is complete and, all things considered, it was a good series of results for Minnesota Republicans. President Donald Trump's job approval came in at 45 percent. His 2016 Minnesota tally: 44.9 percent. Which means after one of the most tumultuous first years in recent presidential history, if Trump lost supporters here, he must have gained an equal number. He was especially strong in the suburbs and in greater Minnesota, which could mean help for Republicans like U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis and GOP state lawmakers in the suburbs where Trump's support remains strong.
It may seem strange that a president's approval rating would be crucial to a contest in which he is not on the ballot, but history bears out a strong correlation. The president's party loses an average of more than 36 seats in Congress when his approval is below 50 percent. But Trump's number in Minnesota does not foretell the kind of election wave that many Democrats are hoping for.
In fact, the poll suggests Trump is running much stronger here than even a traditionally Republican state like Georgia. According to a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, Trump has a 36.7 percent job approval in the land of peaches and Coca-Cola, while a whopping 58.7 percent disapprove.
On the generic congressional ballot — will you vote D or R in your 2018 congressional election? — the Dems' advantage is tiny. It's hard to draw firm conclusions because the polling wasn't done with congressional district lines in mind, but in general Democrats would need a large generic advantage to flip congressional districts 2 and 3 while holding 1 and 8. (Democrats need a large advantage in the generic ballot because their voters are not as reliable in midterm elections.)
The Republican tax overhaul that passed late last year also received decent marks from poll respondents, with equal numbers for and against the plan.
In the bluest states, by contrast, Trump's approval, the generic congressional ballot and issues like the tax law suggest large advantages for Democrats. Not here.
Is Minnesota moving into Republican territory before our very eyes?
One DFL politician was flabbergasted by the results, to the point of discounting them altogether.
Polls have come under withering criticism after Trump's unexpected victory in 2016, but our pollster interviewed 800 Minnesota registered voters.
Tough to argue with that.
J. Patrick Coolican • 651-925-5042 firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @jpcoolican