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The House Majority PAC, a super-PAC created last year to help Democrats win back control of the U.S. House, is running a television commercial criticizing Representative Tom Latham, the Republican candidate in Iowa's new third Congressional district.
House Majority PAC is also showing interest in Iowa's fourth Congressional district. Yesterday the group released topline poll numbers from eight House races, including the IA-04 contest between Representative Steve King and challenger Christie Vilsack.
Follow me after the jump for the anti-Latham ad video and transcript, as well as further details on the IA-04 poll.
As an independent expenditure only committee, this super-PAC can take unlimited donations. It is not allowed to coordinate with candidates.
Yesterday this video of a "Valentine's Day" ad appeared on the House Majority PAC website:
This is not just an online video. House Majority PAC spokesman Ryan Rudominer confirmed to me yesterday that it is running on broadcast networks in the Des Moines and Omaha markets and on cable in Omaha. According to Politico, the House Majority PAC is spending $200,000 on this ad buy.
View of calendar for February, with the 14th blocked in red. As view zeroes in on that date, we see Tom Latham.
Male voice-over: Valentine's Day is almost here, and Congressman Tom Latham's in love. ["Congressman Tom Latham" appears next to his smiling face; pink and red hearts appear to be floating up from his head.]
with Republican Speaker John Boehner. [Head shot of Boehner appears next to Latham, with "Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner" on screen.]
Latham said, "I'd do anything he asked," and he has. [Above Latham and Boehner, colored candy hearts appear, with words superimposed "I'd do anything he asked." Congressman Tom Latham Source: Politico, 9/21/10]
Joining obstructionist Republicans to give millionaires a 200 thousand dollar tax break [Latham's smiling face and name remain on screen, but background shifts to upside-down view of buildings in New York City. Words on screen above Latham's head: "$200,000 Tax Break for Millionaires Source: Tax Policy Center, 3/15/11"]
and add $1.1.trillion to the national debt [Latham's smiling face and name remain on screen, but background shifts to view of giant national debt clock. Words on screen: "$1.1 trillion to the national debt over ten years Source: Tax Policy Center, 4/07/11"]
but refusing to be an independent voice for Iowa's middle class. [Footage of three people washing a pickup truck--looks like a man and his two young sons, or maybe three brothers.]
Tom Latham's gone Washington, and he's not sticking up for us. [Visuals of Latham's smiling face next to Boehner's with U.S. Capitol in background. Inside a large heart above the men's faces, these words appear: "TOM LATHAM GONE WASHINGTON" and a second later "TOM LATHAM NOT STICKING UP FOR US."]
Voice-over concludes: The House Majority PAC is responsible for the content of this advertising.
I am not a fan of this style of political ad. Latham really has been one of Boehner's best "buddies" in the House over the years, and he is a "do what you're told" backbencher type. But this generic commercial doesn't communicate that message well in my opinion.
Latham's opponent, Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell, will probably be grateful for any outside help with tv advertising. Year-end financial reports are not yet available on the Federal Election Commission's website, but Latham built up a huge cash on hand lead over Boswell during the second and third quarters of 2011.
Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars last year on two commercials targeting Boswell in IA-03. Bleeding Heartland posted videos and transcripts here and here. Like the new "Valentine's Day" anti-Latham spot, the Crossroads ad had a not-very-creative boilerplate feel. Boswell was fortunate that the first ad from Rove's group was overshadowed by extensive local media coverage of a break-in at Boswell's farm house in Decatur County.
House Majority PAC indicated yesterday that its leaders are interested in Iowa's fourth district race. The super-PAC commissioned Public Policy Polling to conduct polls in eight Congressional districts between January 18 and 23. This press release included partial results. Excerpt:
In Iowa's 4th District, only 48% of voters think Congressman Steve King deserves to be reelected, while 52% think it's time for someone new. Congressional Republicans have a 40/44 favorability rating and King's approval rating is 42%, well below the 50% mark generally considered safe for incumbents. King leads Christie Vilsack only 49-43 and trails her both with independents (48-37) and with voters who don't live in his current 5th district (48-42) [...]
In IA-4 974 registered voters were interviewed with a margin of error of +/-3.1%.
Additionally, I found the numbers puzzling. The margin of error for a subgroup in a polling sample is larger than the margin of error for the poll as a whole. Still, if Vilsack really is leading King by 48 percent to 37 percent among independents, she shouldn't be six points behind among all respondents, unless King has more support from Democrats than Vilsack does from Republicans. That seems unlikely.
Public Policy Polling usually releases full results and cross-tabs for polls not commissioned by an outside group, but I couldn't find details for the new IA-04 poll yesterday. Neither Tom Jensen nor Dean Debnam of PPP have responded to my request for comment.
If King leads 49 percent to 43 percent in the whole sample, that works out to a lead of about 477 to 419 among the poll respondents.
The House Majority PAC's Rudominer told me that the partisan breakdown of the IA-04 sample was 31 percent Democrats, 40 percent Republicans and 29 percent independents. So, roughly 302 Democrats, 390 Republicans and 282 no-party voters answered PPP's poll. Among the no-party respondents, I calculate that 135 supported Vilsack and 104 supported King.
The key for King is to make sure Republicans outnumber Democrats and no-party voters by as large a margin in November as they did in PPP's respondent pool.
As of last summer, the new fourth Congressional district contained 178,295 active registered no-party voters, 176,419 Republicans and just 135,482 Democrats. Republicans surely have a larger voter registration advantage following the Iowa caucuses, but the Secretary of State's Office hasn't released updated figures yet.
Independents have a much higher turnout rate in presidential election years than they do in off-year elections. If Vilsack can maintain a double-digit lead among independents in the new IA-04, she should be able to keep the race close as long as no-party turnout doesn't fall way below GOP turnout in November.
I am seeking information on support for Vilsack and King among male and female poll respondents. I will update this post if I can get those details from PPP or the House Majority PAC.
UPDATE: According to Rudominer, King was ahead 45 percent to 44 percent with women respondents. Among men he led by 53 percent to 41 percent.
Vilsack's strategy will also need to focus on counties that haven't previously been in King's district. Story, Cerro Gordo, and Webster Counties are among those that have relatively strong Democratic cities. I've posted Iowa's new Congressional map below. Of the 39 counties in the new IA-04, the 18 that are farthest to the west are in King's current district (IA-05). Most of the others (17 counties) have been in Latham's district for the past decade. The last four were in either Boswell's or Bruce Braley's districts.
Any comments about the IA-03 or IA-04 races are welcome in this thread.