News Center

October 31st, 2010

Iowa Poll Paints Gloomy Picture for Democrats and Court

The Des Moines Register has published the results from its final Iowa Poll before Tuesday’s election.  The poll indicates that all the talk about Governor Chet Culver and the Democrats closing the gap on the Republicans was simply hype.

The Register poll also shows that the top of the Democrat ticket in Iowa is extremely weak. Culver and Democrat U.S. Senate candidate, Roxanne Conlin, are both unable to break 40 percent in the poll.  This means that down-ballot Democrats will have to out-perform Culver and Conlin substantially to win on Tuesday.  That is a deadly prognosis for Iowa Democrats.

Below is some analysis by of the Register’s poll numbers.

Gubernatorial Race: Branstad 50% percent, Culver 38 percent

Last month, the Register’s poll showed Branstad with a 19-point lead on Culver.  Now he leads by 12 points.  The Register suggests that Culver has run a better campaign as of late and thus is performing better with independent voters.

Nonsense.  Culver’s shift in the polls isn’t dynamic.  Culver’s “improved” polling numbers are just an indication that Democrats and liberal minded independent voters have come home as Election Day approaches.  Culver’s polling numbers are horrible for an incumbent.  At no time in the last 15 months has Culver broken the 40 percent threshold in any credible statewide poll.

The fundraising disclosures that were filed last Friday also tell a similar story.  Culver’s fundraising has dried up as the campaign enters the final stretch.  Last minute fundraising numbers don’t show much, but they do tell you which candidate in a race has the momentum, as well as who people think is going to win.  Culver raised a measly $87,000, while Branstad brought in $533,000 to his campaign.

All the talk about Culver’s campaign closing the gap was simply hype by the Democrats as well as media outlets like the Des Moines Register.

U.S. Senate Race: Grassley 61%, Conlin 30%

One word describes what will happen in the Iowa U.S. Senate race on Tuesday – Landslide.  Iowa Democrats believed that they had fielded the best candidate to run against Grassley than they ever had.  Those Iowa Democrats must have only looked at the balance line in Conlin’s checking account and nothing else.

Despite Conlin’s immense wealth, she seems destined to finish right where other challengers to Grassley have finished.  Art Small garnered 27.9 percent of the vote against Grassley in 2004. David Osterberg got 30.5 percent in 1998.  In 1992, Jean Lloyd-Jones only managed to get 27.2 percent of the vote despite Bill Clinton winning big.  In 1984, John P. Roehrick could only manage 34 percent of the vote against Grassley after his first term.

Conlin is about to add her name to that list of losers.  The only difference between her and the U.S. Senate candidates who preceded her is that they were smart enough not to spend millions of their own money to get 30 percent against Grassley.

Iowa Supreme Court Justices: Pack Your Bags Ternus

Polling the retention races is difficult because most pollsters don’t have experience polling this type of race.  Not only is it difficult to phrase the question to ask people, but it is also difficult to know if people will actually turn the ballot over and even vote in these races.

The Register’s Iowa Poll shows that only 34 percent of plan to vote to retain all three the justices, while 37 percent plan to remove them.  An additional 10 percent plan to retain some, but not others.  Clear as mud right?  Well, actually it is.

The poll also showed that 19 percent of those asked this question were either unsure or planned not to vote on the retention questions.  Those people don’t matter, so forget about them.  We should also put aside the 10 percent who say they will vote no on some, but yes to others.  We will deal with them later.

Once you do that, the results are a bit easier to understand.  Basically it means that 45.6 percent plan to oust the three Supreme Court Justices, while 41.9 percent will vote to retain them.  Now we can look at the other 10 percent.  The poll clearly shows that someone, most likely Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, is going to be voted out.  What we will have wait and see is whether or not Justices Baker and Streit can get enough of that 10 percent to save their jobs.

It is going to be a long night for the Supreme Court Justices on Tuesday.  It doesn’t look to be very fun either.

Congressional Races: Trouble for Democrat Incumbents

The Register didn’t oversample the congressional districts, and thus, they don’t have a large enough sample to provide numbers on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Congressional Districts.  The Register weighs in on the races despite having incomplete polling data and ignoring the results of its generic congressional ballot test.

The Register suggests that Iowa’s 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts are very competitive.  They also indicate that Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks leads Congressman Dave Loebsack in the 2nd District.  That’s great news for Miller-Meeks and Brad Zaun, but a small sample size means a large margin of error.  The Register also seems to ignore the 1st District race between Ben Lange and Congressman Bruce Braley, suggesting that Braley has a comfortable lead.

What the Register failed to include in their commentary about the congressional races is that their own poll shows a +7 Republican advantage in the congressional generic ballot.  The Republican advantage combined with the large margin of error, along with the weakness at the top of the Democrat tickets all spells big trouble for Boswell, Braley, and Loebsack.

Attorney General: Miller Leads By 11 points

The Register poll shows Attorney General Tom Miller with an 11-point lead over Brenna Findley.  There are two things that are worth noting.  First, 21 percent of people are undecided.  That’s a significant number.  Typically undecided votes go to the challenger this late in a campaign.  Second, Miller being at 45 percent is a troubling sign for the incumbent.  With high Republican turnout expected, a strong Republican current could pull Miller under.  He also has to contend with a lackluster top of the ticket for his party.

This race will be a nail-biter.  It is very possible that Findley could win, but if she does, she’s going to be the last one over the finish line.

I Guess The Other Statewide Races Don’t Matter

A Thistle to the Des Moines Register for not polling the Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Auditor, or Secretary of Ag races.  Both Secretary of State Mike Mauro and State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald have difficult campaigns.  Polling these additional races would have provided Iowans with a better snapshot of what’s going on across the state.  It is likely that that these results would have indicated the strength of the Republican statewide ticket.

The question that needs to be asked is, why did the Register poll the Attorney General race and not the others? I’m not surprised that Miller is leading Findley, but I’d be willing to bet that the poll would show Matt Schultz leading Mauro.  Is that not newsworthy, or did they not want to take the chance of showing another incumbent Democrat losing?

In fact, the more you look at it, the Register’s Iowa Poll only shows one Democrat incumbent losing, Governor Culver.  Maybe that’s why the paper didn’t poll other races where an incumbent Democrat is being seriously challenged.

Constitutional Convention Not An Option Iowans What to Use

The Register poll shows that 25 percent of Iowans plan to vote for the Constitutional Convention, while 41 percent plan to vote against it.  The result is not surprising when you consider that the news media has yet to understand the process and leaders of both the pro- and anti-retention campaigns, as well as the Iowa Farm Bureau, have been vocal in their opposition of the measure.

As someone who has advocated for the constitutional convention, I’m disappointed in the polling results, but not surprised.  What people should realize, however, is that gay marriages will continue in Iowa until there is a constitutional amendment that restores traditional marriage.

There are good odds that Mike Gronstal and the Democrats will still control the Iowa Senate after Tuesday.  If that is the case, it is unlikely that any amendment will pass through the legislature since he has never allowed his Democrat caucus to vote on the matter.

That means social conservatives might have to hope for a Republican majority in the State Senate in 2012, which means the earliest people could vote on an amendment defining marriage is 2016.  Unfortunately, time is not our ally.  By 2016, gay marriages will have taken place in Iowa for seven years.  It could be unlikely that voter unrest will continue at its current level until then.

Maybe those who opposed to gay marriage would rather sit around and reminisce about ousting a few Supreme Court Justices instead of actually reestablishing traditional marriage. Who knew?

Photos by Dave Davidson

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

blog comments powered by Disqus