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September 21st, 2009

Bad Poll Numbers + Major Scandal = Chaos for Culver

Chet Culver2Earlier this summer, Michael Kiernan, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, warned Iowans to be weary of polls that were conducted by and the Iowa First Foundation. Kiernan said, “They ask loaded questions to get desired results.” Kiernan made this statement in an effort to diminish the coverage of the polls by traditional media sources.

The polls by and the Iowa First Foundation were both conducted by reputable pollsters who have been involved in numerous races all across the country. For the most part, the Iowa First Foundation’s poll echoed the findings of poll, yet Kiernan, and some in the media, discredited the polls because of who commissioned them.

This past weekend, the Des Moines Register released the results of its poll, which was conducted between Monday and Wednesday of last week. The Register’s poll again echoed the results of the “partisan polls” which IDP chairman Kiernan lashed out at. Just look at the approval ratings for Governor Culver between the three polls.

Culver’s Approval Rating – 48%
The Des Moines Register – 50%
Iowa First Foundation – 52%

Likewise, the Des Moines Register’s poll shows that former Governor Terry Branstad would create serious problems for Governor Culver in a general election campaign – Branstad beats Culver by 16 points in a head-to-head match-up
Iowa First Foundation – Branstad beats Culver by 19 points in a head-to-head match-up
Des Moines Register – 48% of those surveyed think that it would be a good idea for Branstad to run.

No matter how you slice it, Governor Chet Culver is facing a very difficult re-election campaign.

Chairman Kiernan and other Iowa Democrats might not have liked the results of and Iowa First Foundation polls, but the Des Moines Register’s latest poll validated their results.

While Governor Culver’s polling numbers are headed in the wrong direction, he now has to contend with something much worse and potentially much more damaging to his political future – a major scandal within his administration.

This past Friday, Mike Tramontina, Governor Culver’s director of the Department of Economic Development, resigned unexpectedly. Tramontina’s resignation came just days after he distributed a memo to the department’s board of directors. The memo detailed irregularities in the state’s program that provides tax credits to the film industry. It showed that the necessary paperwork for each film was incomplete, contracts were being amended on the fly, and one person had used state funds to purchase a Land Rover and Mercedes.

The lack of oversight by the Culver administration is likely to make it more difficult for Governor Culver and the legislature to close the nearly $1 billion budget gap that exists for next year’s budget. While the state recently put a cap on the amount of tax credits that could be awarded to film projects in a given year, movie producers rushed to get $208 million in tax credits before the cap was instituted.

With Governor Culver languishing in the polls, the last thing he needed was a major scandal in the months leading up to the legislatives session. Making matters worse, the gross incompetence of the Culver administration looks like it’s going to cost the state millions of dollars – money the state simply doesn’t have to spend.

It is likely that Culver will force state agencies to once again deal with across-the-board budget cuts to make next year’s budget work. Some of these agencies, like the Auditor’s office, have already seen their operating budgets cut by almost 30%. Additional across-the-board cuts would force these agencies to cut staff, which would contribute to the state’s record unemployment numbers or force workers to take furloughs.

Governor Culver and his administration are asleep at the wheel. It is irresponsible to ask hard working Iowans to take unpaid days off while out-of-state filmmakers swooped into Iowa with their hands held out. The lack of oversight by the Department of Economic Development and Culver Administration might have cost Iowa taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and it might have cost Governor Culver his re-election bid as well.

Culver struggles in the polls because people question his judgment and don’t think he is up to the job. The scandal surrounding the Department of Economic Development only makes things worse for Culver. Jettisoning Tramontina suggests that he is somehow to blame for everything that happened, however, the responsibility rests with the one person who Iowans have entrusted to manage the state – Governor Chet Culver.

Photo by Dave Davidson

About the Author

Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country.

Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.

A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states.

Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site,

Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing.

Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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