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Dayton, Franken lead GOP rivals, poll finds

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken have double-digit leads over all their announced Republican challengers, according to a Suffolk University poll of Minnesota voters released Tuesday.

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Fewer than half the voters said they plan vote for the two Democratic-Farmer-Labor incumbents, but Dayton leads six Republican challengers by between 12 and 18 percentage points, while Franken is ahead of four GOP opponents by 15 to 16 points.

None of the Republican gubernatorial candidates was supported by more than 32 percent of the voters, and more than a quarter of them were undecided in the race.

The Senate results were similar. None of the four leading GOP candidates received more than 29 percent of the vote, and about one-fifth of voters were undecided.

The poll by Suffolk University, which is located in Boston, included 800 likely voters and was conducted Thursday through Monday. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The low Republican numbers are probably because none of the Republican contenders are well known, at least not yet.

Only two GOP candidates for governor — former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and former House Speaker Kurt Zellers — were recognized by more than half the voters. The other gubernatorial candidates tested in the survey were teacher Rob Farnsworth, businessman Scott Honour, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and Sen. Dave Thompson.

The Republican Senate candidates in the survey were Rep. Jim Abeler, St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg, businessman Mike McFadden and state Sen. Julianne Ortman.

While Dayton and Franken hold large early leads, fewer than half of the voters have favorable opinions of the two Democrats.

Forty-six percent view them favorably, while 36 percent disapprove of Dayton and 41 percent give Franken low marks.

Nearly half the voters said Minnesota’s economy has improved over the past two years, while 21 percent said it had gotten worse and 25 percent said it stayed the same.

Asked about the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare, 45 percent said it was bad for Minnesota while 41 percent said it was good.

Forty-eight percent disapproved of the job President Obama is doing, while 43 percent approved.

Looking ahead to the 2016 presidential race, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry led all the possible Republican candidates, while Hillary Clinton crushed all her potential Democratic challengers.

Bush and Perry were favored by 15 percent of likely Republican precinct caucus goers, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tied for third place with 9 percent.

On the Democratic side, Clinton was the first choice of 63 percent of Minnesota DFLers, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren came in second with 15 percent, while Vice President Joe Biden finished a distant third with 4 percent.