We Need a Poll of the Iowa Republican Primary for Governor, NOW

(The lack of polling on this race mystifies me. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Cross-posted at my blog: http://blog.thegolddome.com

Note to the media: There is an election in less than a month, but no one has deemed to do a poll about it yet.

The main reason is because most people think like Doug Gross and Jerry Crawford that Terry Branstad will be the nominee. Now Doug Gross has a vested interest, and Jerry Crawford probably hasn't been paying attention as Paddy O'Prado raced to third in the Derby and is looking to race in the Preakness — so let me tell them the Republican Primary for Governor is far from over. The other reason is money it can cost as much as twice as much to poll a primary universe as a general election universe because you run into so many people that aren't voting in the primary.

Either way, while Terry Branstad just might win on June 8, the concept that it is pre-ordained is not reporting or punditry. It is just lazy. But some are starting to get it: O. Kay Henderson mentions the oversight in a post yesterday.

So, for everyone but Kay, including the editors of the DMR, the staff at KCCI, and any other media outlet that might deem to poll this race, here are just six reason the CW that Branstad has this locked up is probably wrong:


1) Branstad's doing worse among every voter group — including Republicans. That's right if you look at the crosstabs on the Branstad/Culver and Brastad/Bob Vander Plaats in the new KCCI poll he's down amongst Republicans. Forget the 5 point drop amongst Democrats or the 9 point drop amongst independents, he dropped 4 points amongst Republicans with almost all of them going to undecided. While all of this is within the margin of error, it follows a trend in the rest of the data.

Here is just the numbers for the Republicans:

Branstad | Culver | Undecided

Feb:                89%             5%           6%

May:               85%             6%           9%

Change:         -4%             +1%         +3%

Vander Plaats | Culver | Undecided

Feb:                  72%                  6%              22%

May:                 78%                  6%              16%

Change:           +6%                  0%             -6%

So not only has Branstad come down, but Vander Plaats has gone up (and Roberts as well). More important, in the last poll Branstad preformed significantly better amongst Republicans — 17% better — now he's only doing 7% better (or within error in this subgroup).

2) He's doing worse after spending around $1 million. What makes the the across the board drop in the poll even worse for Branstad has been on the air for seven weeks! His first ran ads on March 26 and I've heard his buy started out at around $125,000 a week and it was about 6 weeks before the poll bringing his estimated media budget alone to around $800,000, nevermind the amount of money he's spent on the largest staff of any campaign, or even mail to Republicans, independents, and Democrats (see below). When you spend a million and your poll numbers drop that isn't great news.

3) Nothing is working for Branstad. He's changed his message from the backward looking “Comeback” to the creepy and dynastic, but forward looking “Vision 2020.” But, that new “Vision” isn't being echoed by his new TV ads. They are complete with decades old newspapers, video, and “accomplishments” saying that he can lead “Conservative Change.” None of which really make sense with the “reckless and irresponsible” line he repeated more than eight times against Culver in the last debate. Meanwhile their Google ads are focus on his old and laughably unspecific budget plan.

That is four to five messages in two months. Even Chet Culver who is supposed to be doing terribly hasn't switched things up so much staying with the boring, but consistent “Moving Iowa Forward.”  He even has a contrasting message of Branstad moving backward. Either Tim Albrecht can't control the stuff coming from Doug Gross, his consultants, and Branstad himself or their polling is showing them the same things we saw in the KCCI poll. Considering I think time is good at his job and the new ads answer the charges leveled at him by Vander Plaats and the Iowa Democratic Party — I think it's the latter.

4) The only poll we've had on this race is incredibly biased. The Branstad campaign released the only poll in this race. It had him up 63 to 18 over Bob Vander Plaats. The new KCCI poll is an indication that landscape is likely to have shifted and this poll is of course unreliable.

5) Branstad is mailing and calling Democrats. That's right, he's not just reaching out to Independents before his primary to try and bring them in, but Democrats. Sources tell me the lists they used were so bad that multiple Democratic state legislators have received mail from Branstad. Why would he be wasting money on this before a Republican primary if not to try and expand the electorate?

6) Branstad is loosing his cool and is having health problems. While I am not going to make fun of Branstad being overweight like some Iowa bloggers — having heart surgery 5 weeks before an election is still tough for any candidate. I am sure he will be just as healthy, if not more, to continue to campaign. But his age shows compared to his campaigning 12 years ago. But, his blood pressure is probably more concerning for Branstad because he is getting angrier and angrier when people question him. Whether it was the first debate, second debate, or the Sioux City editorial board. He keep losing his cool when people mention his record and he's got one more debate left. The angry moment and this race could end in less than 30 seconds in the internet age.

Now this was all focused on Branstad and how he is not having the easy ride to nomination people expected. But Bob Vander Plaats has some signs of doing better than expected as well (beyong the poll).And not to mention I have always been worried Rod Roberts would make his way through and pull a Criegh Deeds to pull off a surprise victory and I think that his significant increase in name recognition is keeping that remote possibility alive.

So to sum everything up again: Media, please do your job, and poll the Republican primary.

  • I am shocked

    that no one has done a public poll of this primary. Other states with competitive gubernatorial or Senate primaries have seen multiple public polls.

    You make a strong case that Branstad could be in trouble. I believe that in a two-person contest against Vander Plaats he would be at real risk of losing the primary. My hunch is that Rod Roberts will take conservative votes away from Vander Plaats, but it’s just a guess.  

    • Yes

      I agree, but it’s unlikely, but who knows we have seen a poll at all.

      That said, there are two big things that impact Branstad even if he wins the primary:

      1) How much money does he has to spend to win it?

      2) How many conservative will vote against him, and how many will show up in November after they do.

      • he'll have enough money

        Even if he spends $1 million to $2 million before the primary, he’ll be able to raise millions for the general election campaign. The Republican Governor’s Association is sitting on a lot of cash and is sure to help too. That may not be enough to out-spend Culver, but it will be enough to run a statewide campaign.

        Your second question is the key. We already know that the Iowa Family Policy Center won’t support Branstad if he’s the nominee. I have no clue how many wingnuts will decline to cast a vote for governor, or vote for the Libertarian candidate, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number in the 3-5 percent range.

        • Branstad and Vander Plaats

          If you check out the crosstabs from the KCCI poll, it suggests that there are more undecided Republicans in a hypothetical BVP/Culver match up than in a Branstad/Culver race. My guess is that there are far more moderate R’s who will cross over or not vote if BVP is the nominee than wingers who will cross over or not vote if Branstad is the nominee.

          I don’t doubt that Branstad is probably losing ground–two mediocre debate performances and heart surgery can do that to a candidate. I don’t sense that he’s in trouble yet.

          He’s wounded, but I don’t think 20-odd days is enough for his campaign to bleed to death. IMO, for BVP or Roberts to win he either needs to commit some kind of political suicide (scandal, on-camera meltdown, etc.) or one of his opponents needs to really land a death blow on him in the next debate.

          • That is a logical conclusion

            But the other conclusion is believe it or not BVP also has lower name recognition. Without a poll of primary voters we don’t know who they are or if they would vote in a primary.

          • I mostly agree

            Against Culver, Branstad is undoubtedly more electable than BVP. I have moderate friends who are voting for Branstad in the primary, and I know they would not vote for BVP in the general. I am not sure whether they would vote for Culver or just leave that part of the ballot blank.

            I would still consider it a monumental upset for BVP to win this primary. If they were holding a caucus, that would be a totally different story.

            • I agree BVP win is unlikely

              But the assumption that Primary universe is going to an order of magnitude higher than the 2008 caucus is not something I agree with.

              Yes, Turnout in the Republican primary in 2002 was close to 200,000 people, but I am not sure you will see the same turnout here. But, 2002 included a lot more jumbling of Congressional races (just after redistricting) and included a primary for US Senate on the Republican side as well.

              I would estimate looking at the drop in Republican registration, the relative size of the campaigns, the lack of attention people have paid to the primary, and others that it will be close to 150,000 people than to 200,000. Making it closer to the 2008 caucuses turnout then the 2002 primary turnout Craig Robinson keeps claiming it will be.  

              BVP got over 70,000 votes in 2002 (around 32% of 200K), and Huckabee got 40,000 (around 35% of 120K). Sitll not enought to win, but a lot more than people will expect of him.

              The only thing that makes it hard for BVP is Roberts as a spoiler, but we don’t know if Roberts is also pulling votes away from Branstad.

              There are a lot of factors here and if the KCCI poll is right and airing TV ads across the state has dropped Branstad’s poll numbers then anything is possible come June 8.

  • by the way

    Welcome to the Iowa blogosphere.

  • Personally,

    I really do not care that there is no polling done here. 1. Most everyone thinks that Terry will win. so if he does, no bid deal. we go to work on his record.  2. I’m hoping for an “upset” in that BVP beats Terry. 3. I hope & assume that there is/will be a MAJOR shock factor when BVP “surprises” most everyone and the subsequent fallout of the GOP. In the mean time, Dems prepare the for Terry but can easily disassemble BVP’s “values” and can command east of I-35.

    I’m also hearing that Culver’s speeches and appearances have been increasing in octane. I think we are all (myself included) underestimating his ability to rally the Dems.

    Iowa Dems 2010 relies on Roxanne 110%. She is what we will likely rally around and in turn it saves Culver by the hair of my chinny chin chin.  

    • I used to agree

      But without a poll showing that BVP has a chance, I think that a lot of his voters might either stay home or “go with a winner.” either way, nothing is going to lower the expectation that Branstad set for himself with his internal poll and million plus spending: He has to be well north of 50%

  • Horse Races Everywhere

    So real horse races aren’t good enough for you, huh?  You want horse race journalism, too.

    Here’s my message to the press: Cover the candidates and let the votes go where they will.  The struggling newspapers can pay for polls, or they can hire reporters.  Which do you really want, Golddome?

    • I would rather them hire reporters

      But they seem to be intent on paying for polls anyway, so if your going to poll the general election every month since November, why not poll the primary when the poll might have an impact.

    • they should be doing both

      Covering the issues during the primary campaign is important, but Branstad announced his exploratory committee in October and announced his candidacy in January. Surely since then some public poll should have been conducted of this primary. There have been many polls of other states’ competitive primary campaigns.

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