Dayton v. Kennedy

Returning Senator Mark Dayton to the Ranks of the Idle Rich in 2006

1/30/2005

43%

The "under" takes it. Big time. The most damning numbers? Dayton continues his party's hemorrhaging with male voters by dropping 27 points in a year. More alarming has to be the 31 point drop among young people -- and this after a high profile fawning by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Minnesota Sens. Mark Dayton and Norm Coleman both took hits to their public images in the past year, with their job approval ratings falling below 50 percent, according to the latest Minnesota Poll.

Dayton, a Democrat who's up for reelection next year, took the heaviest blow: His approval rating declined by 15 points in a year, from 58 percent to 43 percent. The approval rating for Coleman, who just began his third year in office, fell by 7 points, from 54 to 47 percent.

Dayton's job approval decreased among all categories of Minnesotans, grouped by age, education, income, party and ideology, with the largest drop among men -- down 27 points -- and 18-24 year olds -- down 31 points.

Coleman's biggest declines came among 25-34 year olds -- down by 19 points -- and those living in the seven-county metropolitan region -- down by 13 points.

"I don't like either one of them," said Joe Cornet, 62, of Vadnais Heights, one of the 832 Minnesotans who took part in the poll. Of Coleman, he said: "[President] Bush tells him to jump, and he says, 'How high?' I don't think he represents anybody in Minnesota." Of Dayton, he said: "I just don't know where the guy is coming from."

The poll represents a sharp turnaround for both senators, who had healthy increases in their approval ratings the last time their performance was measured in a Minnesota Poll, in January 2004. At that time, both senators broke above the 50 percent mark for the first time.

Coleman, who was attending a Republican retreat in West Virginia, was unavailable for comment. But Erich Mische, his chief of staff, said the results would do nothing to affect the way in which Coleman approaches the job.

"A poll is a poll a poll," Mische said. "The numbers aren't surprising. We've just come off an incredibly high-profile presidential campaign ... in a state where the race was very close" and the electorate was polarized.

Dayton in spotlight

Dayton expressed disappointment with the results and said he must "do a better job of communicating what I'm doing here in Washington." He said it's hard to speculate what happened.

"It's been a very politically controversial year," Dayton said. "I made controversial decisions in terms of closing my office to protect my staff and even challenging the confirmation of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. ... I would believe that they are part of the explanation, but I can't know for sure."

The poll, which was conducted from Sunday, Jan. 23, through Wednesday, came during a week in which Dayton was in the headlines. First, Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., announced that he was considering a run against Dayton, who is regarded by the Cook Political Report as the most vulnerable Senate Democrat seeking reelection next year. Then Dayton gave a highly publicized speech on the Senate floor, accusing Rice of lying to the American people and Congress while making the case for war against Iraq in 2002. In his Tuesday speech, Dayton said his vote against Rice was "a statement that this administration's lying must stop now."

Dayton, who routinely accuses the Bush administration of making false statements, received national -- even worldwide -- attention after making his remarks as part of such a high-profile debate. His office was flooded with more than 4,000 e-mails and phone calls, most of them positive, and Dayton was featured on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show." Republicans accused Dayton of trying to raise money for his reelection campaign by raising a ruckus. When Bush was asked at a news conference about Dayton's remark, the president replied: "There are 99 senators other than that person and I'm looking forward to working with as many members as I can."

In interviews after the poll was conducted, some of the respondents made reference to Dayton's criticism of Rice.

"I don't think that was right," said Cornet, who normally votes Democratic.

Clarence Sutton, 84, a Republican from Gaylord, called Dayton "a disgrace to the state of Minnesota" and said that his attack on Rice was "rotten representation for the state of Minnesota."

Dayton's approval rating was down even among his fellow DFLers and liberals, by 10 points.

Dayton, a fifth-year senator who defeated then-incumbent Republican Rod Grams, finds himself in much the same position as Grams, who had an identical 43 percent approval rating in January of 2000.

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