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December 18th, 2013

Poll Shows that Iowa Republicans are Primed to Keep 3rd District Seat being Vacated by Latham

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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It’s been 26 years since a member of the United States House of Representatives from Iowa retired and walked away from elected life.  Democrat Congressman Berkley Bedell retired at the end of his sixth term for health reasons.  Congressman Tom Latham announced on Tuesday that he will retire at the conclusion of his tenth term in office.

Other candidates have retired from the U.S. House, but it was done in order for them to seek higher office.  Latham’s retirement is an oddity in Iowa.  It is as significant as when Sen. Tom Harkin announced his retirement from the U.S. Senate.  The 2014 election in Iowa now has two open congressional seats, as well as an open U.S. Senate seat.  The results of the general election could go a long way in determining if Iowa is a red state, a blue state, or continues to be a swing state.

Still relatively young and in good health, the news of Latham’s retirement shocked Republicans across the state Tuesday afternoon.  In the spring following Harkin’s retirement, Republicans believed that Latham was best positioned to seek the U.S. Senate seat.  Despite the urging of activists and GOP power brokers, Latham announced that he would not run for the seat.  Republicans were obviously disappointed with his decision, but that pales in comparison to the disappointment many Iowa Republicans are feeling after the news of his retirement.

Latham’s victory over Congressman Leonard Boswell in 2012 provided a big boost to the Republican psyche in central Iowa.  Republicans had not represented Des Moines in Congress since Dr. Greg Ganske retired in order to run against Harkin in the 2004 U.S. Senate race.  Latham’s victory was significant, not just because it took a seat away from the Democrats, but because having him on the ballot would also help Republicans on the ballot.

While the news of Latham’s retirement gives Republicans pause, they should not be discouraged about retaining the seat.  A top Latham advisor of  provided the Iowa Republican will polling results from a recent poll conducted by the Latham campaign.  The advisor noted that the campaign routinely polls about a year out from the general elections.  The poll shows that Latham is leaving a seat that Republicans should easily hold on to as long as they nominate a solid candidate.

The poll, conducted by The Tarrance Group from November 20th through 21st, shows that in the year that the district has been represented by Latham, Republicans have gained a lot of ground.

Here are the key findings from the poll:

A Republican candidate currently holds a seven point advantage on the generic ballot in this district, with 46% of respondents saying they would vote for a Republican candidate and only 39% saying they would chose a Democrat. Nearly half (47%) of Independents say they would choose a Republican candidate while 28% would select the Democrat on the generic ballot.

As Obamacare continues to be front page news, healthcare continues to rank as one of the most important issues for voters in this part of Iowa. Twenty-three percent (23%) listed healthcare as their most important issue which tied with pocketbook concerns.

A majority of voters (61%) disapprove of the job that President Obama is doing in office. A strong majority of Independents (69%) currently disapprove of Obama’s job performance. Only 36% approve of the President’s performance in office.

Similarly, 58% of respondents oppose Obamacare and 49% feel strongly about it. Only 38% of voters here favor the President’s healthcare law.

Finally, 53% of votes (45% strongly) would prefer “a Republican Member of Congress who will be a check and balance to Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress.” Only 36% would prefer “a Democrat Member of Congress who will help Barack Obama and the Congressional Democrats pass their agenda.”

Those are fantastic numbers for Republicans.  Numbers like that should also help encourage a top tier candidate to emerge to run for the seat.  Perhaps the best positioned people to run for the seat are already campaigning for the U.S. Senate.  With Mark Jacobs dominating the airwaves in the U.S. Senate race, candidates like State Senator Joni Enrst, Matt Whitaker, and David Young might be wise to turn their attention to a congressional race instead.

All three of those candidates would be better known in the congressional district than they currently are statewide.  Not only have they already been campaigning in the district, the money they have raised could be easily switched from a Senate to a House campaign.  Besides those three senate candidates, names like State Senator Jack Whitver, Council Bluffs businessman Jeff Ballanger, former Iowa Speaker of the House Brent Siegrist, West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer, and Secretary of State Matt Schultz will likely have some interest in running for Latham’s seat.

Another name to keep an eye on is Bob Vander Plaats, who has recently moved to Grimes.  If Vander Plaats is interested in running for federal office, there will not be a better opportunity for him than the open congressional seat.  All that said, with the primary just six months away, the candidates running for the U.S. Senate have an advantage because they have already made a decision to seek federal office.

Iowa’s Third Congressional District presents Iowa Republicans with a great opportunity to elect a new member of congress.  While some conservatives were disappointed in some of Latham’s most recent votes, his demeanor and style of politics was the perfect approach in the district.  Republicans would be wise to find a successor to Latham who shares the same ability to focus on the work of governing instead of getting caught up with the politics of the day.

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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