Public Policy Polling released the first detailed polling on the 2014 U.S. Senate race today. It shows that U.S. Senator Al Franken is — as of today, anyway — in pretty good shape 17 months out from the election.
Franken currently holds a +9 in his job approval ratings (51% approve vs. 42% disapprove) which is a solid rating for an incumbent heading into a re-election campaign. Franken also currently holds at least a 15-point lead against any of the possible challengers polled. Businessman Mike McFadden (the only potential candidate who has publicly expressed interest in the race) and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek trail Franken by 15 points, while State Senator Julie Rosen trails by 16 and U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, radio talk show host Jason Lewis, and Chanhassen’s own State Senator Julianne Ortman trail Franken by 17.
There’s not a lot of good news in the polling data for Ortman. Ortman’s name recognition is low (80% didn’t know who she was), but among those who did know her, almost four times as many had an unfavorable opinion as had a favorable opinion. Those numbers gave her the lowest favorability numbers among the potential candidates in the poll. Worse, she had an unfavorable opinion among Republicans and self-identified conservatives who knew who she was. Franken leads Ortman by 29 points among women and by four points among men (even though Franken polls -8 in job approval among men). However, her low name recognition does give her the opportunity to introduce herself on her own terms to voters.
Numbers like these help explain why Ortman may have felt the need to take time from the end-of-session rush last week to try and blast Franken over the IRS investigations of Tea Party groups. If she intends to run, she needs to drive name recognition and establish herself as a credible contender because based on the polling numbers and Franken’s formidable fundraising — it’s going to be an uphill battle.