By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WCCO) — Republican Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida is in Golden Valley Monday attending a rally for Jeff Johnson’s run for governor. It’s his first visit back to Minnesota since 2016.

New polls show the race for governor and one of Minnesota’s U.S. Senate races are getting very close.

In the gubernatorial race, the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio poll shows Congressman Tim Walz with a 45 to 39 percent lead over Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.

In the race to replace Al Franken, Sen. Tina Smith has a 47 to 41 percent lead over state Sen. Karin Housley. Both polls are within the 3 1/2 percent margin of error.

Minnesota’s rural and outstate areas are lining up solidly for Republicans, especially after President Donald Trump’s campaign visits to the state. A closer look at the poll numbers shows a surge for Republicans in the two regions where President Trump visited in recent months — in the 8th Congressional District in northeast Minnesota where President Trump held a rally in June, and in the 1st Congressional District in southeast and southern Minnesota were the President was earlier this month.

“Minnesota has been hit by a red wave,” said Larry Jacobs, professor at the Humphrey School. “The Republicans who have been undecided or who were not sure they were going to turn out are now telling pollsters after the Kavanaugh hearings they are mad and they are going to turn out and vote.”

The polls show that gubernatorial candidate Tim Walz’s lead in southern Minnesota has evaporated since President Trump’s visit to Rochester and that Republicans including Senate candidate Karin Housley and gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson have picked up strength in northern Minnesota.

“Donald Trump excites Republicans like no other office holder today,” Jacobs said. “When he turned out in southern Minnesota — along with the Kavanaugh hearings – it’s woken up the Republicans who had been sitting on the sidelines up until about two weeks ago.”

But the wild card, as always, is Minnesota’s law that allows voters to register and vote the same day as the election.

“We are a long way to figuring out who is going to win come election day,” Jacobs said.

We reached out to the candidates.

“Karin Housley has the momentum in this race,” her campaign said.

A spokesperson for Tina Smith says she continues to “work hard to earn the support of voters.”

The same Star Tribune/MPR poll shows Sen. Amy Klobuchar ahead in her race against Jim Newberger – 56 to 33 percent.

Other polls have shown Sen. Klobuchar with an even larger lead — she is the overwhelming favorite to win her third term in the U.S. Senate.

Esme Murphy