Dayton well ahead of Republican opponents

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton continues to have very solid approval numbers, and leads every potential Republican we tested against him for reelection by at least 8 points.

53% of voters approve of the job Dayton is doing to 39% who disapprove. He has twice as many Republicans (14%) who approve of the job he's doing as Democrats (7%) who are unhappy with his performance, and he's also on positive ground with independents at 49/40.

Right now Norm Coleman seems like Dayton's most likely foe next year, and if he wants the nomination Republican voters in the state want him to have it. 57% say they'd like him to be their candidate next year with no one else who we threw into the mix getting more than 5%. But Coleman's not that popular with the general electorate- 35% see him favorably to 43% with a negative opinion- and in a hypothetical head to head with Dayton he trails by a 52/39 margin.

The only person we tested who comes closer to Dayton than that is Tim Pawlenty in the event of an unlikely comeback attempt to his previous office. But even he trails Dayton 50/42 in a hypothetical head to head. Pawlenty is no longer a popular figure in Minnesota with 44% of voters rating him positively to 50% with a negative opinion and his strength as a future political candidate in the state is probably overrated, at least until he does some image rehabilitation.

None of the other Republicans we tested against Dayton- Kurt Zellers, Keith Downey, Julie Rosen, and Jeff Johnson- have greater than 33% name recognition. They all trail Dayton by margins greater than 20 points- Zellers and Downey each trail by 23 points at 52/29 and 53/30 respectively, Johnson trails by 24 at 53/29, and Rosen trails by 25 at 52/27. If any of these folks ended up as the candidate they'd likely get closer as their name recognition increased, but certainly Dayton would start out as a substantial favorite against any of them.

Dayton's run as Governor so far has been a lot more successful than his tenure in the Senate- he looks like a strong favorite for reelection next year, at least 22 months out.