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Poll shows Peterson with lead

When an online newspaper labeled the 7th District U.S. House race as "tight," Rep. Collin Peterson decided to release polling showing him 34 points up on Republican Lee Byberg.

"I haven't really done much polling, but this story got a few people stirred up and they wanted me to release the numbers," Democrat Peterson said in a telephone interview Friday.

"I don't want to hear any more stories about winning by a razor-thin margin," he said. "Thirty-four points is not razor-thin."

Polling done between Sept. 26-28 of 404 likely voters, Peterson polled 54 percent while Byberg ended with 20 percent. Third-party candidates Glen Menze and Gene Wendorf polled 5 percent each. Sixteen percent were undecided.

Polling was done by Global Strategy Group of New York, with an error rate of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

Byberg still considers the race tight, and plans town hall meetings Saturday in Willmar and Alexandria.

"Ever since Congressman Peterson accepted Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama's marching orders and rammed the disastrous Cap-and-Tax scheme through the House, he's kept a low profile back home -- and it's hard to blame him," Byberg said Friday in a statement.

He told the West Central Tribune of Willmar on Thursday that he questioned the results of the poll, saying his own polling has shown Peterson with less support.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee approached House members who have decidedly won in the past, including Peterson and Rep. Jim Oberstar, DFL-8th District, and asked them to conduct polls. Peterson said.

"Some incumbents were getting surprised," Peterson said of the DCCC survey request. "I just didn't see it. I've been out everyplace ... and not picking up anything."

He finally agreed, and hired Global Strategy Group. "He's a top pollster for the DCCC," Peterson said. "He told me my colleagues would kill to have these numbers. These are the best numbers I've seen in the country (he said)."

"Peterson is significantly better known and better defined than his opponent and his personal popularity cuts across party lines," the pollster said. Peterson iks known to 83 percent of voters in the district and is rated favorably by 63 percent. By contrast, Byberg is familiar to just 14 percent of voters and received favorable ratings from just 8 percent.

"Peterson is viewed favorably, even as voters express deep dissatisfaction with Congress," the poll said. While Peterson held high favorable ratings, Democrats in Congress got 40 percent favorable and 49 percent unfavorable.

"Despite efforts to brand Peterson as a rubberstamp for Obama and Pelosi and a tax-and-spend liberal, voters see Peterson as independent, fiscally responsible and as offereing common-sense solutions," the pollster said.

Peterson noted the poll showed that 71 percent think he's trustworthy and 68 percent think he's fiscally responsible. "Most of my colleagues in those numbers are in the 30s and 40s."

The poll just confirmed what Peterson's campaign had thought all alongl, he said, and calmed down the DCCC.

Peterson said the 7th District hasn't seen the wide demonstrations against incumbents of the Tea Party as in other areas of the country.

"There are a few of them out there, but I really don't pick up much," he said. "They haven't given me a hard time at all because, actually, with a bunch of the stuff they're bringing up I agree with them on. I don't agree with everything."

This year is no different than other years, Peterson said.

"There's all kinds of polls out there," Byberg told the West Central Tribune. "We will know in 19 days. ... It's been an awesome experience, regardless of what happens."

As much as Peterson hears from voters who support him, Byberg said he hears from voters who are ready for a change.