A voter backlash against Minnesota Democrats' political funeral for incumbent Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died a week ago in a plane crash, now threatens stand-in candidate Walter Mondale.
Internal GOP tracking polls over the past week, exclusively obtained by WORLD political columnist Joel Rosenberg, show Republican Norm Coleman gaining 7 points since Tuesday night. That puts Republican Coleman in a statistical dead heat with Democrat Mondale, 43 percent to 42 percent.
The new poll reveals a substantial surge for Mr. Coleman going into the fall campaign's final weekend.
Last weekend the GOP conducted a poll after Mr. Mondale's name was first floated to replace Mr. Wellstone: that survey had the 74-year-old Democrat ahead of Mr. Coleman by 3 points, highly placed GOP sources tell WORLD. By the Tuesday before the memorial service, internal GOP polls found Mr. Mondale had climbed to a 7 point lead; an independent, public poll showed Mondale up 8.
Republicans were deeply concerned they couldn't overcome the "Mondale Mystique."
Then came the over-the-top funeral service at the University of Minnesota. "Everything changed Tuesday night," said a top Republican operative. "The Democrats' political rally really turned off independent voters. It alienated [Minnesota Governor Jesse] Ventura. And we saw Coleman's numbers rise almost immediately, and intensity for Coleman has significantly increased."
"Basically, we're back where we were" before Sen. Wellstone's death, the GOP source said. "Independent, undecided voters really didn't like Wellstone. Now they're looking cautiously at the guy who's filling in for the guy they didn't like."
President Bush will now campaign in Minnesota with Coleman on Sunday.