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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Iowa

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.

Branstad Announcing Plans, Leads New Poll

At a 1 p.m. central time press conference today, many in Iowa expect former governor Terry Branstad to step down from his current post as president of Des Moines University, placing him one step closer to announcing a bid for a fifth term as governor. It's excellent timing for the announcement, as a new poll released today finds Branstad leading Gov. Chet Culver (D) by 5 points.

Culver is pushing back on the Branstad publicity today by releasing his first TV ad of the 2010 campaign.

The survey released today by Daily Kos/Research 2000 was conducted Oct. 12-14 of 600 likely voters and a margin of error of +/- 4%.

Governor
Culver 43 - Branstad 48 - Und 9

Culver 58 - Rants 28 - Und 14

The survey also found Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), running for a sixth term, leading four potential Democratic challengers -- all by double digits.

Senate
Grassley 52 - Krause 35 - Und 13

Grassley 51 - Conlin 39 - Und 10

Grassley 51 - Vilsack 40 - Und 9

Grassley 54 - Fiegen 31 - Und 15

**UPDATE: Branstad said this at his press conference, per the Des Moines Register: "I intend to retire as the president to fully explore the possibility of becoming a candidate for governor in 2010."

Grassley Up Big Despite Health Care Heat

While Iowa's incumbent Democratic governor faces a potential uphill re-election next year, things are looking pretty good for Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), according to a new Rasmussen poll (Sept. 22, 500 LV, MoE +/- 4.5%).

The Des Moines Register reported earlier this week that Grassley's approval rating had dropped nearly 20 points since the beginning of the year, as he's now in the middle of the hot health care debate as the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Rasmussen's horse race numbers, though, show him in no danger against potential challenger Bob Krause (D).

Grassley 56
Krause 30
Und 7

Harkin Looks Safe In '08

Though he has run a series of close re-election bids during his four terms in the Senate, Republicans this year failed to field a strong challenger against Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, and a new poll shows Harkin is a safe bet for re-election in November.

The survey, conducted by Research 2000, tested Harkin against Republicans former State Rep. George Eichhorn, businessman Steve Rathje and businessman and Navy veteran Chris Reed. Conducted for KCCI-TV and KCRG-TV between 4/21-23, the poll contacted 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. The sample was made up of 33% Democrats, 30% Republicans and 37% independents and other parties.

General Election Matchups
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Harkin 57 / 86 / 17 / 63
Eichhorn 28 / 7 / 52 / 27

Harkin 58 / 87 / 17 / 64
Rathje 23 / 6 / 47 / 20

Harkin 59 / 87 / 17 / 68
Reed 20 / 6 / 43 / 14

54% of Iowa voters approve of the job Harkin is doing in the Senate. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and as the fourth-ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, Harkin has been able to bring back a number of big projects and benefits to Iowa.

After Republican Reps. Tom Latham, a moderate, and Steve King, a conservative, declined to challenge Harkin, the incumbent Democrat's streak of beating House members will come to an end this year. After beating incumbent Roger Jepsen, a Republican, in 1984, Harkin defeated Republican House members who challenged him in 1990 (Tom Tauke), 1996 (Jim Ross Lightfoot) and 2002 (Greg Ganske).

Harkin is one of a number of Democrats in states President Bush won in either 2004 or 2000 in which the Republican Party failed to recruit a strong candidate. Like Harkin, Montana Senator Max Baucus and South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson will face under-funded, little-known challengers. Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who narrowly won his race in 2002, doesn't even have a Republican challenger, well-known or not.

Harkin Avoids Big Challenge

A week after Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor was left without a Republican challenger, the GOP failed to field a major candidate to face Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, dealing the embattled Senate Republican caucus another blow. Harkin, running for a fifth term in the Senate, will face either a former state representative or one of two businessmen running in the GOP primary.

None of the three potential challengers are seen as a threat to Harkin, who has a long history of beating back well-funded and well-known GOP opponents. In his elections to the Senate, he defeated an incumbent Republican in 1984, then held off Republican members of Congress in 1990, 1996 and 2002.

The NRSC had hoped another member of Congress might make the race. NRSC chairman John Ensign hinted that a major recruit was poised to run in an interview earlier this year with Politics Nation, but both Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King declined a bid.

Their hesitancy may have been well-founded. Harkin, who raised and spent almost $7 million in 2002, had already pulled in nearly $4 million through December, FEC reports show. Steve Rathje, one of the businessmen running against him, had raised only $70,000 through the end of 2007 and had just $58 -- not a typo -- on hand. (Full disclosure: Part of that money went to pens bearing Rathje's name, one of which sits on Politics Nation's desk)