The Sunday Des Moines Register published results from its latest Iowa poll. Selzer and Associates surveyed 803 Iowans between September 14 and 16 (click here and scroll down to read the questionnaire).
50 percent of respondents approve of Governor Chet Culver’s performance, while 39 percent disapprove. The last Iowa poll for the Register, published in April, found Culver’s approval rating at 55 percent. Culver’s re-elect number continues to drop, which is a bit worrying. In this poll, only 28 percent of respondents said they would definitely vote to re-elect Culver, while 27 percent would consider an alternative and 21 percent would definitely vote for an alternative.
On the other hand, Culver’s approval numbers are still net positive, which isn’t bad given the state of the economy. The right direction/wrong track numbers in this poll are 48/41.
Survey USA has had Culver in net negative territory for most of the year, but it looks to me like that pollster has some kind of negative house effect. The only public polls showing Culver below 50 percent approval this year have been by Survey USA. The Register poll’s approval numbers for Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin are also more than 10 points above Survey USA’s comparable numbers.
The Register’s new poll may encourage former Governor Terry Branstad to take the plunge, as it shows 70 percent of respondents approve of the job he did as governor. Branstad’s favorability rating is 59 percent, a bit higher than Culver’s 55 percent. Political columnist Kathie Obradovich suggested that these numbers should “incinerate” any doubts Branstad might have about getting back into politics.
I see the results somewhat differently. Today’s numbers are probably Branstad’s high water mark, since no one has campaigned against him for 15 years. Once he becomes a candidate, his real record, as opposed to the Draft Branstad PAC’s version, will get more scrutiny. Yet even today’s poll indicates that just 48 percent of all respondents think it would be a good idea for Branstad to run for governor again (36 percent thought it would be a bad idea).
Among Republicans, 60 percent thought Branstad should run. However, 26 percent of Republicans thought that would be a bad idea. Again, that’s before anyone seriously campaigns against him. I assume Branstad would win a GOP primary by a healthy margin, but he will have to fight for it, and a significant proportion of Republicans won’t welcome his return. Will he be able to count on disappointed party members to vote for him, or activists to volunteer for him next November? He’ll need help to overcome Iowa Democrats’ voter registration advantage, which Branstad never faced in any of his previous elections.
If I were Branstad, the most worrying sign in the Register’s poll would be something else Obradovich mentioned in her column on Sunday:
The former governor’s biggest problem comes from seniors, who are usually dependable voters. Among the 65-and-older set, nearly half think it’s a bad idea for Branstad to run again. Only about three in 10 said it’s a good idea.
It’s telling that Iowans who were adults during the entirety of Branstad’s tenure as governor, and are old enough to remember his predecessor Bob Ray, are the least likely to want Branstad back in politics. In contrast, various polls have indicated that Culver’s support is higher among over-50 Iowans than in the population as a whole. (I didn’t see the age breakdown for Culver’s numbers in this poll.)
Doubts about Branstad are likely to grow when the inevitable negative commercials hit the airwaves, focusing on the Mastercard governor’s two sets of books or his failure to deliver on some key promises made to Republicans.
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