Netanyahu’s Hold Tenuous; New Franken Polling

Looking at an important election beyond our borders, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu Party seemed to be holding steady in first place with 31 seats, but fewer than the 32-35 range that was projected. In the 2009 election, Likud scored 27 seats, but after officially joining forces with Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman the combined total expanded to 42 of the 120 seats in Israel’s Knesset. Netanyahu was then able to add other center-right parties to form the current government.

This time the eventual coalition will look much different. Some even believe disgruntled Likud supporters may look for a leadership alternative to Netanyahu. The key to forming the next coalition will be surprise second-place finisher Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which earned 19 seats. The Labor Party, predicted to finish second, placed third, winning 17 seats. Netanyahu has already asked Lapid to join his government, and preliminary indications are that he will. With the center-left parties scoring either 58 or 59 seats, however, the Prime Minister has a very thin margin from which to form a government. As the leader whose party finished first in the balloting, Netanyahu has 42 days to form a governing coalition.

Voter turnout was high, estimated at 66.6 percent of the eligible electorate, meaning almost 3.77 million participants. This represents an increase of 1.9 percent when compared to the 2009 election. As an aside note, the ruling party that Netanyahu ousted four years ago, Kadima, managed only to win two seats in the new Knesset rendering them almost extinct.

Interestingly, echoing criticisms from Mitt Romney supporters about the Republican’s presidential campaign, some Netanyahu supporters criticized his campaign eschewing door-to-door tactics, which are a mainstay of Israeli campaign politics, for an all-out media blitz that was viewed as largely ineffective.

New Minnesota Senate Poll

Public Policy Polling (Jan. 16-18; 1,065 registered Minnesota voters) tested the Minnesota electorate’s opinions and attitudes about Sen. Al Franken (D), who is scheduled to again face the voters in 2014. Franken won the 2008 election cycle’s closest election in a recount process that took seven months to complete. He unseated then-Sen. Norm Coleman (R) by just 312 of over 2.4 million votes cast.

With Coleman already saying he will not seek a re-match next year (although he still polls the strongest of any Republican against Franken), PPP tested key members of the congressional delegation. No one has yet come forward to form a campaign to challenge the one-time Saturday Night Live comedian.

Among the Minnesotans who were tested, Franken’s favorability rating is 52:41 percent positive to negative. Against Coleman, the Senator leads 50-44 percent.

When paired with House Education and the Workforce chairman John Kline (R-MN-2), Franken has a 49-41 percent advantage. Third District Congressman Erik Paulsen fares slightly worse than Kline, trailing 39-50 percent.

But the person who does best in a hypothetical GOP primary, former presidential candidate and 6th District Representative Michele Bachmann, is in the most difficult general election position. Scoring an upside down 35:59 percent on the favorability index, the congresswoman trails Sen. Franken 40-54 percent on this particular PPP ballot test.

Though Franken’s numbers are acceptable for an incumbent this early in the election cycle, he certainly is not invulnerable. Considering that a majority of the respondents were unfamiliar with both Kline and Paulsen, yet they register within relative striking distance before any campaigning begins, suggests that this race will likely tighten. Should 2014 become a Republican year, and assuming that the GOP fields a quality challenger here, the Minnesota Senate race could evolve into a highly competitive contest once campaigning begins in earnest.

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