If the Des Moines Register's new Iowa poll is accurate, Senator Chuck Grassley will cruise to re-election by a similar margin to his last four victories. However, Roxanne Conlin hasn't thrown in the towel. She spent the final weekend campaigning around the state with Governor Chet Culver and other Democrats. Her schedule is packed for Monday too. Grassley hasn't held many public events in the past week, but you can hardly turn on a television in Iowa without seeing one of his commercials.
As usual, most Iowa newspapers have endorsed Grassley for re-election, including the Des Moines Register, Cedar Rapids Gazette, Mason City Globe-Gazette, Sioux City Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald and Quad-City Times. Rare exceptions include the Iowa City Press-Citizen ("Conlin can become the senator that Grassley should be by now") and the Burlington Hawk-Eye ("Roxanne Conlin has not earned this endorsement so much as Grassley has turned his back on it").
Bleeding Heartland discussed the Senate candidates' only debate here. It looked like a tie to me, which is as good as a win for the candidate who's ahead. Closing tv ads and campaign themes for Grassley and Conlin are after the jump.
Grassley's final commercial is called "Appreciate":
Grassley: What do I do for Iowans? [photo of Grassley doing Senate work]
Well, I fight wasteful spending and high taxes, work to lower the cost of prescription drugs, and to develop clean energy. [photo of Capitol building, then a shelf of prescription medicine containers, then footage of turbines turning on a wind farm]
I help create jobs for Iowans and make retirement more secure. [footage of man hammering at a machine, then elderly couple smiling with their arms around each other]
I'm proud of that, but there's so much more to do. [Grassley driving his car down an Iowa road, then walking down street talking to someone off-camera]
[speaking to camera] I sure would appreciate your vote.
I'm Chuck Grassley, and I approved this message.
After umpteen ads putting a good spin on the work Grassley has done in the Senate, he humbly asks for our votes and says there's more he wants to do. He doesn't say what he wants to do, which is wise, because coming out for specific spending cuts or other Republican policies could alienate people.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Of all the Iowa candidates, no one had better commercials this year than Grassley. They had a coherent look and feel and appealed to many different groups. They downplayed his partisanship and his role in the health care reform process, which is what brought his approval ratings to record lows in 2009. It helped that he to had practically unlimited money to spend on television; he didn't have to be choosy about which issues to emphasize. Grassley internal polling must not have worried him, because he never aired a negative ad on Conlin. Positive ads stand out now, because the majority of Iowa political commercials are negative. I've heard people say they are sick of seeing so many Grassley ads, but that's not going to cost him votes.
Conlin hasn't been able to match Grassley's ad buys, but I have seen her final spot, "Counting on You," lots of times in Des Moines this past week:
Conlin speaking to camera: Every year it's the same Washington politicians and the same special interests. [throughout the ad, viewer sees www.RoxanneforIowa.com at top of screen, ROXANNE CONLIN U.S. SENATE at bottom of screen]
Billions of dollars to Wall Street. A system that works for them, not for us. [Wall Street sign, photo of well-dressed people drinking a toast at a party]
Because it's small business that drives the economy. [Conlin speaking to people at construction site, "CREATE SMALL BUSINESS JOBS" on screen]
I'm not afraid to speak the truth and shake things up, to take this fight to Washington. [Conlin speaks to different small groups of people, then photo of Capitol with words, "HOLD WASHINGTON ACCOUNTABLE"]
Conlin speaks to camera again: I'm Roxanne Conlin, and I approved this message, because Washington is broken, and I'm fighting to fix it. [footage of her at campaign event, audience clapping, "FIGHTING TO FIX WASHINGTON" on screen]
Conlin speaking to camera again: He's counting on the special interests to win this campaign for him, but I'm counting on you.
This is a decent ad. The problem is, Conlin lacked the resources to build this case effectively. Iowans have seen so many commercials about Grassley improving foster care or promoting renewable energy or protecting whistle-blowers. That doesn't sound like someone who works for the special interests.
Grassley's voting record provides plenty of evidence for Conlin's case. He has backed subsidies for big oil and opposed energy-efficiency standards, equal pay provisions and many other bills that were in the public interest. But Conlin's campaign could only afford to run five different commercials during the general election campaign and had to introduce her to the voters as well as criticize Grassley. When they did go after the incumbent on tv, they didn't choose the best issues in my opinion. Grassley has carried water for Wall Street interests many times, but Conlin focused on his vote for the 2008 bailout, which many Democrats (including Tom Harkin) also supported.
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