Large pool of undecided voters could close gap between Walz and GOP challengers

12-16% of likely Minnesota voters remain undecided on whether they will give Gov. Walz a second term or elect a Republican.

Gov. Tim Walz (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz seems to have a comfortable lead over his Republican challengers, but a large pool of undecided voters threaten to make the 2022 election interesting.

A new KSTP/SurveyUSA poll finds that roughly 12-16% of likely Minnesota voters remain undecided on giving Gov. Walz a second term or electing a Republican. This range holds up regardless of the GOP challenger, of which there are several.

Former Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, for example, trails Walz 47% to 34%, a difference of 13 percentage points. But 14% of likely voters say they are undecided about a hypothetical Walz/Gazelka showdown.

Sen. Michelle Benson’s deficit to Walz is also slightly less than the percentage of undecided voters. She trails Walz 47% to 35%, but 14% of voters deem themselves undecided in this match-up.

Here is how the other confirmed Republicans fare against the Minnesota governor:

  • Former state senator Dr. Scott Jensen trails Walz 36% to 48%
  • Businessman Mike Marti trails Walz 34% to 47%
  • Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy trails Walz 36% to 47%
  • Outsider Dr. Neil Shah trails Walz 31% to 48%

Speaking to KSTP, political science professor Steven Schier noted that the poll similarities between the better- and lesser-known challengers show that none of them have too much name recognition.

He added that Democrats would not be wise to take Walz’s lead for granted, given current levels of undecided voters.

“When you’re undecided at this point you can’t assume those people are going to break for the governor,” he said. “And that remains an uncertainty and a potential opportunity for Republicans in next year’s elections.”

More poll results reveal a sharp contrast between suburban and rural Minnesotans. Walz leads Sen. Gazelka 53% to 30% in Twin Cities suburbs, while Gazelka leads Walz 43% to 33% in the Iron Range and 53% to 29% in western Minnesota.

One challenge for Republicans is that Minnesotans have given Walz a higher approval rating than President Joe Biden. According to the poll, Walz checks in with a 55% job approval rating and a 51% approval on his handling of the economy. As for Biden, his job approval only sits at 48% and his handling of the economy is at 42%.

The Republican primary will take place on Aug. 9, 2022, and Election Day on Nov. 8, 2022. Minnesota is one of 14 U.S. states without gubernatorial term limits.