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Poll: Pawlenty, Hatch running neck-and-neck

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- With less than two months before the November election, GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Democratic Attorney General Mike Hatch each have the support of 42 percent of likely voters in the race for governor, according to results of a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll released Sunday.

The poll shows both gubernatorial candidates appear to have locked down their partisan bases and are fighting to win over independent and undecided voters.

The statewide survey, conducted Wednesday through Friday, polled 820 likely voters. The results of the poll have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Independence Party candidate Peter Hutchinson had the support of 7 percent of those polled. Candidates Ken Pentel and Walt Brown each registered only 1 percent.

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The results mirror a Minnesota Poll on the governor's race in July that showed Pawlenty with 43 percent support and Hatch with 41 percent.

"We've known all along this was going to be a close race," Hatch's campaign manager Jon Youngdahl said. "How we are going to win this race is with a positive message."

Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the poll's finding that the governor has a lead among independents is "good news and reflects his mainstream appeal and success at growing jobs and strengthening Minnesota's economy."

Hutchinson, a former Minneapolis schools superintendent, increased his support from 5 percent to 7 percent in the latest poll. His name recognition is up from 27 percent in July to 37 percent now.

When voters see a third option, Hutchinson said, "They're going to take it."

The poll indicates Hatch and Pawlenty have secured their party faithful, with Hatch claiming 85 percent of those who identify themselves as Democrats and Pawlenty 87 percent of those identifying themselves as Republicans.

The governor's job-approval rating changed little since the July poll. He is at 54 percent now, compared with 55 percent then. About two in five voters rated him poorly in July; that number is at 41 percent now.

In addition, 48 percent of those surveyed say Minnesota is headed in the right direction, while 42 percent say the state is on the wrong track.

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