Terry Branstad’s record as a political candidate is about as impressive as any that you will ever find. His record isn’t impressive just because he has never lost an election, it’s because he has been remarkably consistent throughout his political career.
Despite having to endure two strong primary challenges in his political career, Branstad has shown an ability to remain focused on his main goal – winning in November. Branstad has also shown consistency in his 2010 campaign when you look at how he fairs in various polls, which all point to him continuing his winning ways.
The recent TIR Battleground Poll shows Branstad leading Governor Chet Culver 53 percent to 35 percent. Branstad’s 18 point lead over Culver is impressive considering that the Democratic Governor’s Association spent almost a million dollars on ads attacking him. Governor Culver has also spent significant funds attacking Branstad on his management of the state.
Tim Albrecht, Governor Branstad’s communications director, commented on the poll results saying, “Iowans want a proven, effective manager like Terry Branstad in the governor’s office. Iowans all across the state continue to respond positively to Gov. Branstad’s optimistic message of job creation and fixing the state’s finances. However, this campaign will not rest until after November 2 and will continue working hard for every vote. The only poll that counts is the one taken on Election Day.”
Branstad has proven to be a consistent performer in the three TIR Battleground Polls that have been conducted in the past 13 months. In July of 2009, Branstad led Culver 53 to 37 percent. His 16-point advantage over Culver occurred before he was even an official candidate.
In February of 2010, the TIR poll showed Branstad leading Culver by staggering 29-point margin. His 57 to 28 point lead over Culver in February could have been attributed to the negative press Culver received during the legislative session. That poll also coincided with Branstad’s official announcement.
The first TIR poll that was conducted in June of 2009 showed Branstad with a 16 point lead over Culver. At the time, many believed that Branstad’s numbers had nowhere to go but down, but they have held steady. While there is no doubt that the gubernatorial race will tighten up as the general election approaches, numerous polls have shown Branstad consistently polling at or around 53 percent.
There have been 13 general election gubernatorial polls in Iowa since June of 2009. When you average all of them out, it shows Branstad leading Culver 53.3 percent to 35 percent, with a spread of 18.3 percent. The new TIR Battleground Poll mirrors the average of all of those polls. It is remarkable that Branstad has been able to maintain his lead in the polls throughout the past year when you consider that he was attacked by his primary opponent, Governor Culver, as well as the DGA.
If the gubernatorial campaign continues at its current pace and intensity, Governor Culver doesn’t have a chance. It is apparent that Culver and the DGA’s attacks on Branstad have not been effective. Part of the reason why Culver’s campaign team has been unable to move the numbers is because 51 percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable impression of Culver, while Branstad is viewed favorably by 59 percent.
Culver’s is also haunted by the large number of Iowans who don’t believe that he deserves to be re-elected. Only 32 percent of those surveyed believe that Culver deserves re-election, while 59 percent want to give someone else a chance.
Furthermore, when asked whether or not the recent news they have seen about Governor Culver has given them a more favorable or less favorable impression of him, 43 percent said that the recent news gave them a less favorable impression, while only 21 percent said more favorable.
These additional questions give us some insight into why Culver has been unable to move his head-to-head numbers against Branstad. While Culver and the DGA have spent over a million dollars attacking Branstad, they have done a horrible job of giving Iowans any reason why Chet Culver deserves to be re-elected.
With only three months until Iowans go to the polls, the Culver campaign may not have enough time to persuade Iowans that he deserves another term. That means Culver will have to hope that either Branstad falters down the stretch, or that one of their attacks will mortally wound him.
The more likely outcome is that Branstad maintains his position in the poll. If this holds true, the only way that the race tightens is if Culver can improve his own brand. However, even if that happens, it probably will not be enough to prevent Culver from being the first governor to lose re-election since the 1960’s.
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