From NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann
As some pundits predict thunderclouds gathering on the horizon for incumbent Senate Republicans, a new NBC poll shows that Sen. Norm Coleman may be positioned to ride out the storm.
The results from the poll of likely voters, conducted by Mason-Dixon October 27-28, have Coleman leading opponent Al Franken by six points, 42-36, with 12% of respondents favoring Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley. One in ten Minnesotans are undecided.
If Coleman puts daylight between Franken's numbers and his own on Election Day, he may have Barkley to thank. While he has shored up 89% of voters who identify as Republicans, with only 4% defecting to Barkley's camp, only about three out of four Democrats say that they support their party nominee, with 17% of Democratic voters favoring the Independence Party candidate over Franken.
Franken's bombastic and sometimes offensive outbursts during his days as a comedian, highlighted by ads run by his Republican opponents, appear to have taken a toll. He has a net negative approval rating among respondents, with almost half saying that they have an unfavorable impression of the former entertainer.
Coleman, who has pushed to cast himself as a forward-looking and optimistic candidate, is beating his opponent by double digits among voters 35-64 and by 15 points among men.
The poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 4%, also showed Barack Obama leading McCain in Minnesota 48% to 40%.