Iowa presidential campaign news roundup (updated)

Fewer than 30 days remain until the presidential election. Any comments about the race in Iowa or nationally are welcome in this thread. I’ve compiled recent news, analysis, and advertising after the jump. I will update as needed, especially if any new Iowa poll comes out today. Gallup’s national tracking poll shows Mitt Romney gaining ground since last Wednesday’s presidential debate.

UPDATE: Rasmussen Reports has President Barack Obama leading Romney in Iowa by 49 percent to 47 percent, based on a survey of 500 likely voters conducted on October 7 (margin of error plus or minus 4.5 percent). Rasmussen’s previous Iowa poll had Romney leading 47 percent to 44 percent.

SECOND UPDATE: Added latest national polling data at the end of this post.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest “Employment Situation Summary” came out last Friday. It was the best monthly jobs report seen in a while, showing a drop in the nationwide unemployment rate to 7.8 percent as well as upward revisions to previous monthly data. Some Republicans saw a conspiracy at work to re-elect Obama. Those claims are not credible (see also here). That said, I agree with Republicans who point out that this economic recovery is still weak. The real unemployment rate–including people who have dropped out of the labor force or who are underemployed–is much higher than 7.8 percent. Iowa’s unemployment rate has tracked lower than the national level throughout the recession and recovery; the latest data indicate a statewide unemployment rate of 5.5 percent.

In recent weeks, the Obama campaign has been outspending Romney on television commercials in Iowa and other swing states. Both the campaigns have launched new advertising since the first debate. The Obama campaign ad uses debate footage and media accounts to portray Romney as lying about his own tax plan. I posted the video and transcript here (scroll to the bottom). NBC has asked the Obama campaign not to use its network’s news footage in political advertising, but as far as I know this commercial is still in rotation.

Speaking of Romney’s many distortions of the truth during the debate, Politifact demolished his claim that the Obama administration funneled $90 billion in green energy “breaks” to troubled companies in one year. Click here for more debate fact-checking.

One of the Romney campaign’s latest television commercials features a woman who says she voted for Obama in 2008 but is now disappointed in the president. Here’s “Melanie”:

My transcript:

Melanie McNamara speaks: I’m disappointed in Barack Obama as my president [words on screen Melanie McNamara Small Business Owner Voted for Obama in 2008]

because he promised to bring us all together, and then we’re all going to be able to prosper. [footage of flag flying in front of dilapidated factory building, words on screen Since President Barack Obama took office, there are over 450,000 more unemployed women. Bureau of Labor Statistics]

I don’t see the prospering. [footage of ordinary looking street in residential area, words on screen Under Obama, our National Debt has reached a record $16 trillion. U.S. Department of the Treasury]

In 2008, I voted for Barack Obama. He doesn’t have my vote this time. [Melanie back on camera, speaking and shaking her head as she says Obama doesn’t have her vote this time.]

Why Mitt Romney? Being a woman, you think about your children, and you think about their future. And what I want to think about is a future that has jobs, our economy’s growing again. [footage of Romney with ordinary people in a restaurant, then Melanie on camera, then footage of various women with young children, then Obama shaking hands with women of different ages during campaign stops.]

That’s important to women, and it’s important to me. [Melanie back on camera, then shifts to Romney Ryan campaign logo]

Romney’s voice: I’m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message. [Romney campaign logo on screen, plus “donate” button and web address

I’m not a fan of this year’s presidential campaign advertising, but this is surely one of the Romney campaign’s stronger pieces. He needs to improve his standing among women and pick up at least some of Obama’s 2008 supporters.

In the Des Moines Register’s latest Iowa poll by Selzer and Co, the president led Romney by 13 points among women likely voters. Romney led Obama among male respondents by just 6 points. The Register’s Jennifer Jacobs had more on Friday:

More Iowa women view Obama favorably, while Romney’s likeability has taken a hit.

Romney’s favorability rating is under water with female adults in Iowa – only 41 percent feel favorably about him, while 55 percent view him unfavorably.

But Iowa women give high job approval ratings to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, both Republicans. One potential reason for the varying views? Romney has had nearly $15 million in negative ads run against him since the beginning of the summer, much of it focused on what the Democrats dubbed the GOP “war on women.” And a hard-fought Republican caucus/primary season highlighted issues like contraception in a way that turned off some female voters. […]

Most female likely voters have made up their minds on the race.

Their impressions of the candidate are more firm, with just 7 percent who could be persuaded to change their mind. Twelve percent of men are open to switching. […]

An advantage for Obama: Women are a bit more likely than men to say they will definitely vote – 83 percent versus 76 percent. Women are 53 percent of the electorate in Iowa. […]

Health care is a bigger concern for women than men.

Both genders put the economy on top, but men by 6 points more. The deficit ranks as next most important for male likely voters, but female likely voters put health care second, and by a wide margin.

Several poll respondents said Romney’s argument that the deficit is one of the greatest threats to the economy is not hitting home with them. Romney might have more luck with Iowa women by talking about his health care reforms in Massachusetts, but he has shied away from talking about health care, other than to call for repeal of Obamacare. […]

A strong majority of female likely voters think the Obama/Biden team does a better job than the Romney/Ryan team in caring about their needs and concerns.

Sixty percent say Obama/Biden would better care for women’s needs. Just 28 percent say Romney/Ryan.

The Obama campaign has run many television commercials aimed at women (here’s a recent one). I’ve also been hearing a new radio ad on the “alternative” station in Des Moines. A young woman narrator focuses on same-sex marriage rights, ending the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and a woman’s right to choose.

Vice President Joe Biden briefly visited Iowa on October 4 for an afternoon event in Council Bluffs. Radio Iowa covered highlights from the speech here and here (includes link to full audio). Biden slammed the way Romney described half the population in the infamous “47 percent” video of his speech to campaign donors.

Biden also suggested that during the debate Romney had a problem with the “math” and the “facts” regarding his plan to cut income taxes.

“It’s bad enough that Governor Romney won’t release the details of his tax returns,” Biden said, getting applause and a few shouts from the audience. “Now, he won’t even release the details of what he plans on doing about your taxes – seriously!”

This part of Biden’s speech attracted the most attention from the national media:

“We’re going to ask the wealthy to pay more,” Biden said, then quipped: “My heart breaks (for the wealthy)” as he pounded his chest.

The crowd cheered.

“You know the phrase they always use?” Biden asked, before saying in a deep voice: “Obama and Biden want to raise taxes by a trillion dollars.”

Biden switched back to his regular speaking voice and said: “Guess what? Yes, we do – in one regard: we want to let that tax cut expire so the middle class doesn’t have to bear the burden of all that money going to the super wealthy. That’s not a tax raiser. That’s called fairness where I come from.”

Republicans immediately criticized that comment. Paul Ryan said raising taxes on the wealthy was “a tax increase on our successful job creators that will cost us 700,000 jobs.”  The Romney campaign also cited a study suggesting 8000 of those job-losses would happen in Iowa, “costing the state $2 billion in lost economic output.”

On Tuesday, Republicans also pounced when Biden said the middle class had been “buried” the last four years. On Thursday, Biden told the crowd in Council Bluffs the middle class had been “decimated” by a recession caused by Republican policies.

“Their policies put the middle class in an incredibly deep hole which we’ve been helping them climb out of for the last four years,” Biden said.

The Obama campaign has run several television commercials featuring Romney’s 47 percent comments. I’ll be surprised if Biden doesn’t raise this issue again during the vice presidential debate on Thursday evening.

The Obama campaign has been trying to maximize turnout in its strongholds, scheduling several major events in Iowa City during the past month. The latest was on Friday, when Jon Bon Jovi played a short concert at a GOTV rally in Hubbard Park. Three-term Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack also spoke to the crowd at that event. Strong turnout in Johnson County is key to his re-election prospects in the new second Congressional district. The previous Friday, September 28, First Lady Michelle Obama headlined a rally to push early voting in Cedar Falls on the University of Northern Iowa campus. I just hope those students fill out the whole ballot, rather than voting only for Obama.

After a slower start with early GOTV, Iowa Republicans have made up some ground on absentee voting since Iowans started casting ballots on September 27.

The Romney campaign held a statewide voter mobilization effort over the weekend, and they wisely used the glow of favorable presidential debate coverage to recruit volunteers. In the late afternoon of October 4, the day after the first presidential debate, Romney held a 25-minute telephone town-hall meeting with Iowa voters. (I was among the thousands of households to receive a call, offering to connect me directly to the meeting.) He answered friendly questions about taxes, Medicare and Social Security, gun control, helping students pay for college, health care reform, and unemployment. At several points in between caller questions, a Romney campaign staffer came on the call to remind listeners to press 1 if we wanted to volunteer on Saturday. The staffer also passed along “exclusive” information (which had already been given to the press earlier in the day) that Romney will return to Iowa next week. At the end of the call, Romney thanked everyone and personally asked them to volunteer and vote early if possible.

Religious conservatives have been a key part of Iowa Republican GOTV in recent election cycles. On October 7, some pastors marked so-called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” with sermons urging congregants to vote against Obama or for Romney. It bothers me that the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t enforce the law against tax-exempt organizations whose leaders engage in explicit electioneering. Your right to free speech does not equal a right to non-profit status for tax purposes.

Speaking of religion and politics, Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson published a story about the Catholic Association distributing “voter guides” giving Obama an F grade and Romney and A+.

I leave you with an interesting New York Times article by Robert Mackey about how Americans perceive federal spending on the Public Broadcasting System and National Public Radio.

UPDATE: Pew Research Center brightened Republicans’ day.

Fully 66% of registered voters say Romney did the better job in last Wednesday’s debate, compared with just 20% who say Obama did better. A majority (64%) of voters who watched the debate describe it as mostly informative; just 26% say it was mostly confusing.

In turn, Romney has drawn even with Obama in the presidential race among registered voters (46% to 46%) after trailing by nine points (42% to 51%) in September. Among likely voters, Romney holds a slight 49% to 45% edge over Obama. He trailed by eight points among likely voters last month.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters (1,112 likely voters), finds that 67% of Romney’s backers support him strongly, up from 56% last month. For the first time in the campaign, Romney draws as much strong support as does Obama. […]

In the presidential horserace, Romney has made sizable gains over the past month among women voters, white non-Hispanics and those younger than 50. Currently, women are evenly divided (47% Obama, 47% Romney). Last month, Obama led Romney by 18 points (56% to 38%) among women likely voters.

I’m skeptical that one strong debate performance erased Obama’s advantage with women likely voters nationally.

Gallup also found a noticeable shift toward Romney following the debate.

Jon Cohen made a good point at the Washington Post blog:

So who moved in Romney’s direction?

Well, not political independents, for one. There was no meaningful change in their support for Obama or Romney in either poll.

All of the change in both polls came from the composition of each sample. In pre-debate interviews by Gallup, self-identified Democrats outnumbered Republicans by five percentage points, according to Gallup’s Jeff Jones. By contrast, in the three days following the debate, the balance shifted in a GOP direction, with 34 percent of registered voters identifying as Republicans (two points up from pre-debate), 33 percent as Democrats (four points down).

For Pew, a nine-point Democratic advantage in mid-September is now plus one percentage point for the GOP. (The turnabout in “likely voters” was even more dramatic, shifting from Democrats up 10 to Republicans up five.)

It’s good news for the GOP if more Americans are identifying as Republicans this week than last week, but it would worry me more if polls showed big movement toward Romney among independents. The next set of polls from Florida, Ohio, and Virginia should be interesting.

As of October 7, the Iowa Electronic Markets winner takes all market still showed Obama with about a 70 percent likelihood of winning the election. That may change after the Pew and Gallup polls are factored in, though.

New York Magazine’s Jason Zengerle wrote a good article on methodological problems with polling the presidential race.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released today (but taken before the presidential debate) found voters trust Obama more than Romney to handle Medicare.  

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