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Blog Home Page --> Governor -- Iowa

Iowa Was Establishment's Field Of Dreams

By Kyle Trygstad

While antiestablishmentarianism may be running rampant in elections across the country, it skipped one state entirely on Tuesday night. Iowa Republicans flocked to the kind of "insiders" that voters elsewhere were bent on rejecting.

For governor, a GOP majority opted for former four-term Gov. Terry Branstad over Tea Party-backed businessman Bob Vander Plaats. It's hard to get more establishment than someone whose previous tenure in the same office spanned the Reagan-to-Clinton administrations. Likewise, in Iowa's 1st Congressional district, a former congressional aide (read: ties to Washington) easily defeated a Ron Paul activist. In the 2nd district, Mariannette Miller-Meeks was given her second try at unseating Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack, who beat her last time by 57% to 38%.

In Iowa's 3rd Congressional district, state Sen. Brad Zaun -- the only candidate with any political experience at all -- easily met the 35% threshold to claim the GOP nomination outright. Few handicappers had expected any of the seven candidates to emerge as a clear winner. Mr. Zaun, a former town mayor and hardware store owner, will now take on eight-term Democrat Leonard Boswell in what should be a closely-watched race in the fall.

As the results poured in Tuesday night, the Des Moines Register's Kathie Obradovich video-blogged in evident surprise: "Political experience is trumping the sort of outside vibe or insurgency campaigns that we've seen a lot of here in Iowa."

To be sure, plenty of anti-establishment, anti-incumbent sentiment was evident around the country. But don't let anyone tell you Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas was the only veteran to defy the mood. Iowa loves a familiar political face too.

IA Poll: Culver In Trouble

A Des Moines Register poll shows that Gov. Chet Culver (D) is at risk of being a one-term governor in a state that has re-elected every governor -- often multiple times -- since four-year terms were approved in 1972. He's particularly vulnerable against one of his predecessors -- four-term Gov. Terry Branstad (R), who is likely running in 2010.

General Election Matchups
Branstad 57 -- Culver 33 -- Und 8
Vander Plaats 45 -- Culver 37 -- Und 15
Culver 42 -- Rants 35 -- Und 18
Culver 42 -- Fong 34 -- Und 20

In the matchup against Branstad, the Register poll finds that one of five Democrats chose the Republican, as do 58 percent of independent voters. Culver's job approval rating is just 40 percent in the latest poll, far lower than former Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack ever scored, and a point Branstad hit only briefly in his tenure.

Favorable Ratings
Culver 48 / 46
Branstad 60 / 22
Vander Plaats 24 / 12
Rants 14 / 11
Fong 10 / 6

In the 2010 Senate race, incumbent Charles Grassley (R) is much safer, leading potential Democratic opponent Roxanne Conlin 57-30. He has a 57 percent approval rating, though he scores lowest when asked about his role in the health care debate. Thirty-nine percent give him good marks for that issue, while 49 percent grade him as fair or poor.

The Iowa Poll for the Des Moines Register was conducted by Selzer & Co. from November 8-11, with an overall sample of 800 Iowans and margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent. The gubernatorial and Senate matchups were taken from a sample of 539 likely voters and had a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent.