IA-Gov: Branstad looks set to win GOP primary

Three recent Iowa polls show former Governor Terry Branstad in a position to win this year's Republican gubernatorial primary on June 8. The Sunday Des Moines Register published results from the latest Iowa poll by Selzer and Co, which surveyed 501 likely Iowa Republican primary voters. About 57 percent of respondents plan to vote for Terry Branstad, 29 percent plan to vote for Bob Vander Plaats, and 8 percent plan to vote for Rod Roberts. The poll was in the field from June 1 through June 3, and results for the likely Republican voters have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

Two other Iowa polls by Public Policy Polling and Research 2000 for KCCI have found Branstad below 50 percent but comfortably ahead of Vander Plaats and Roberts. Public Policy Polling had Branstad with 46 percent, Vander Plaats with 31 percent and Roberts with 13 percent. Research 2000 for KCCI put Branstad at 44 percent in the GOP primary, Vander Plaats at 29 percent and Roberts at 12 percent.

In Iowa's 2002 Republican primary, Vander Plaats did much better than his final poll numbers, but he benefited that year from a highly negative campaign between front-runners Steve Sukup and Doug Gross. Vander Plaats announced James Dobson's endorsement on Thursday and held rallies around the state with Chuck Norris on Friday and Saturday, but I doubt it will be enough to overcome the hurdles he's facing in the primary.

This race might have played out differently had Vander Plaats had more resources to make his case. About 34 percent of likely Republican primary voters in the new Des Moines Register poll weren't sure whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Vander Plaats, and 60 percent said the same about Roberts. Branstad not only is much better known, he also scored highest on attributes like "best ideas for bringing new jobs to Iowa" and "best able to curb government spending" (which is laughable when you consider Branstad's record on fiscal issues).

Public Policy Polling's survey had Vander Plaats slightly ahead of Branstad among Republican primary voters who had heard of both candidates. Branstad's lead among self-identified conservatives was much smaller than his lead among those who called themselves moderates. Vander Plaats has campaigned as a more conservative candidate, a stauncher opponent of gay marriage, and the only Republican in the field who supports an Arizona-style immigration law in Iowa (though Branstad and Roberts have done plenty of pandering on the immigration issue too).

I will never understand why the Club for Growth and other national right-wing organizations declined to get involved in the Iowa governor's race. Given the way the national conservative movement pushed Marco Rubio against Florida Governor Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate primary, you'd think they would have some issues with Branstad. During his four terms as governor, he received a "D" grade from the Cato Institute, greatly increased the state budget, borrowed money to pay bills and kept two sets of books to hide illegal deficits.

Assuming Branstad is the Republican nominee, Democratic Governor Chet Culver has a tough road ahead. Every poll on the race since last fall has shown Branstad leading Culver, and in many cases Branstad was above the 50 percent mark. Last week Public Policy Polling's survey showed Branstad ahead 52-37, while Research 2000 for KCCI had Branstad leading Culver 51-42. The Des Moines Register hasn't published general election numbers yet for its latest poll by Selzer. Culver's approval ratings have been below 50 percent since last fall, and he will need to bring them up a bit and make this election a choice rather than a referendum on the incumbent. He also needs to hope that social conservatives and tea party activists who favor Vander Plaats either stay home or vote third party in the governor's race. Some conservatives have already pledged not to support Branstad against Culver.

Any thoughts about the Iowa governor's race are welcome in this thread.

Palin's Iowa endorsement could hurt her in 2012

If Sarah Palin runs for president in 2012, she will regret endorsing former four-term Governor Terry Branstad yesterday in the Iowa Republican primary for governor.

First thoughts on how this will play out are after the jump.

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IA-Sen: Grassley up on tv

Senator Chuck Grassley's re-election campaign unveiled its first television commercial of the year yesterday:

Rough transcript by me:

 

Unidentified woman: "Tightwad."

 

Unidentified woman: "Penny-pincher."

Unidentified man: "He's frugal."

Unidentified man: "Blunt."

Unidentified man: "Straight-talking."

Unidentified woman: "One of us."

Female voice-over: Chuck Grassley visits every county every year to stay in touch. He's a farmer and a senator. He'll do what needs to be done. He's just like Iowa. Chuck Grassley works ... and he never forgets he works for us.

Grassley: I'm Chuck Grassley for Iowa, and I approved this message.

 

Once Roxanne Conlin went up on television, I figured it wouldn't be long before Grassley's campaign responded. He has more than $5 million in the bank and can probably afford to run television commercials from now until November.

Although this commercial doesn't mention Grassley's likely Democratic opponent in the general election, I infer from the language in this ad that he'll run against Conlin as a rich, free-spending lawyer who's not "one of us."

This doesn't seem like a strong commercial to me, but it shows Grassley recognizes he can't afford to be seen as the candidate representing special interests. The female voice-over suggests to me that Grassley knows he needs to shore up support among women. The most recent Rasmussen poll showed Conlin trailing narrowly among women, and the most recent Research 2000 poll for KCCI showed Conlin slightly ahead of Grassley among women.

Grassley will be hard-pressed to defend his "penny-pincher" reputation when he has voted for every blank check for war and the Wall Street bailout. He also voted for every Bush tax cut for the wealthy, which massively increased our national debt and budget deficits. In the current fiscal year, "a staggering 52.5 percent of the benefits [from the Bush tax cuts] will go to the richest 5 percent of taxpayers. Meanwhile, Grassley voted against many policies that benefit hard-working Iowans, like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Any thoughts about the Iowa Senate race are welcome in this thread.

IA-Sen: Conlin (D) launches first tv ad

Roxanne Conlin, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, begins television advertising across Iowa this week. I'm not able to embed the commercial, but click here to watch. The Conlin campaign released this transcript:

“I’m Roxanne Conlin. Taking on the special interests has been the cause of my life. Like taking on the big banks to help family farms at risk of foreclosure. I took on corrupt politicians and corporations who violated the public trust. I’m running for U.S. Senate to take this fight to Washington. Fight for relief on Main Street, not more bailouts for Wall Street. Because the special interests have had their turn. Now, it’s our turn. I’m Roxanne Conlin and I approved this message."

I noticed a small omission from that transcript: in the commercial, Conlin says, "As a prosecutor I took on corrupt politicians..." That's important, because many Iowans may not remember that she served as U.S. attorney for Iowa's southern district from 1977 to 1981.

This ad is a shorter version of the introductory video Conlin's campaign released last fall, which I discussed here. It's a fairly basic message for Iowans who haven't heard of Conlin, and it makes sense for her to raise her profile just before the June 8 primary. Though this ad doesn't mention five-term Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley, it starts building the case Conlin will make later in the campaign: Grassley has stood up for special interests throughout his career. I believe Grassley voted for the financial reform bill last week in order to undercut the narrative Conlin will build against him.

Iowa's primary election takes place on June 8. Two other Democrats are challenging Grassley: Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen. Most people expect Conlin to win the primary easily. She began the race with more name recognition and has campaigned in all 99 counties since the start of the year. Conlin has already raised more money than all of Grassley's previous challengers combined. She out-raised Grassley in the first quarter and had about $1 million cash on hand as of March 31, while the Krause and Fiegen campaigns had less than $1,000 on hand between them.

Late last week Conlin called on Grassley to denounce Kentucky Republican Rand Paul's comments about civil rights. Paul suggested that private businesses should be allowed to discriminate. Without mentioning Paul's name, Grassley's spokesperson told Iowa Independent,

Sen. Grassley’s position is that if a place is open for business it should be open for everyone. You may know that Grassley was a co-sponsor of the 1982 and 2006 reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act, the 1965 companion to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He was in the middle of the agreement reached on the 1982 legislation. Grassley also supported the 1991 extension of the Civil Rights Act. That was the last major amendment to the Civil Rights Act. It was broadened in 1972, after its passage in 1964.

Grassley is wise to put some distance between himself and Paul's views. As Assistant Iowa Attorney General in the 1970s, Conlin prosecuted the first cases under our state's civil rights law.

Iowa Department of Public Health having trouble with marriage equality

When some Republicans tried to convince Iowa county recorders not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples last April, Iowa Department of Public Health officials made clear that ignoring the Iowa Supreme Court's Varnum v Brien ruling was not an option. Unfortunately, the IDPH has determined that marriage equality does not require equal treatment for married gay couples who become parents. Now IDPH Director Tom Newton has foolishly decided to fight a lawsuit brought by a married lesbian couple seeking to have the non-birthing spouse listed on their child's birth certificate. Heather and Melissa Gartner sued senior IDPH officials on behalf of their daughter this week, having tried and failed to resolve the matter through administrative channels.

Based on advice from the Iowa Attorney General's Office, the IDPH contends that the non-birthing spouse must complete the adoption process in order to be listed as the second parent on a child's birth certificate, even if the child was born after the parents were legally married. I'm a big fan of Attorney General Tom Miller, but his office blew it on this one.

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