By Mark Fischenich
MANKATO — It’s a virtual toss-up in the 1st District congressional race between Rep. Gil Gutknecht and Mankato school teacher Tim Walz, according to a survey earlier this week by an independent national polling project.
Gutknecht, the six-term Republican incumbent from Rochester, was preferred by 48 percent of the more than 1,000 southern Minnesotans interviewed. Walz, a Democrat making his first run for elected office, was favored by 47 percent.
“Obviously it’s very exciting,” said Walz campaign spokeswoman Meredith Salsbery. “It does confirm our internal polling.”
The poll was conducted Sunday through Tuesday by Majority Watch, a partnership set up by two independent polling firms to look at competitive House races nationwide in an effort to predict which party will win control the House on Nov. 7. A total of 1,024 likely voters in the 1st District were interviewed in the automated telephone survey. The margin of error was listed at 3.08 percent.
Gutknecht campaign spokesman Bryan Anderson said he hadn’t seen the methodology of the poll, which was released Thursday afternoon.
“With polls, a lot of time the devil’s in the details,” Anderson said.
He was suspicious, however, that the poll showed Democrat Patty Wetterling leading Republican Michelle Bachman (50-45 percent) in Minnesota’s 6th District.
“That’s sort of contradictory to everything else we’ve seen,” he said, referring to earlier polls in that race.
There has been a change this week in the Gutknecht campaign’s characterization of the race. Campaign officials previously predicted that the contest was not particularly competitive.
“We certainly know this is going to be a tough race,” Anderson said Thursday. “It’s a tough climate (for Republicans).”