New thread on the presidential race in Iowa (updated)

Four new Iowa polls were released during the past 24 hours, and both Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s campaigns have scheduled multiple rallies in Iowa this week. Follow me after the jump for clips on those stories and related news.

Any comments about the presidential race are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Added another poll below and excerpts from a new Romney campaign memo on Iowa.

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of Iowa likely voters shows Obama ahead of Romney by 50 percent to 44 percent. Mark Murray discussed the key findings here. The full polling memo is here (pdf). The survey reached 1,378 registered voters and 1,142 likely voters, producing a margin of error of 2.9 percent. The likely voter sample included 34 percent Democrats, 31 percent Republicans, and 34 percent no-party voters. Obama leads among women by 16 points, while Romney leads among men by just four points. Obama’s favorability numbers were in the positive range (52/44 for likely voters), while respondents had a less favorable view of Romney (43/49 among likely voters). Also,

In Iowa, according to the poll, 45 percent of respondents say they have already voted early or plan to do so, and Obama is winning those voters by nearly 30 points, 62 percent to 35 percent.

But Romney is winning Iowa voters who plan to vote on Election Day by 20 points, 55 percent to 35 percent.

For that to be true, Obama would have to be getting most of the early vote from Iowa independents.

Cautionary note: The last NBC/WSJ/Marist poll of Iowa showed a larger lead for Obama than other surveys did around the same time.

The University of Iowa’s Hawkeye poll shows Romney leading Obama by 1 percent among likely Iowa voters. This poll is conducted by university faculty and students. Live callers interviewed 320 Iowans, of whom 302 were likely voters, between October 18 and 27 (an unusually large poll window), producing a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percent. Click here for toplines and here for the polling memo.

Obama has a slight lead in Iowa among all respondents, with 42.7 percent of the vote to 41.0 percent for Romney, with 10.5 percent undecided and 5.8 percent preferring a third party candidate. Romney leads among likely voters, though, with 45.2 percent of the vote compared to 44.4 percent for Obama, with 6 percent undecided and 4.3 percent preferring a third party candidate. The margin of error for the survey of 320 Iowans is 5.6 percent.

That’s a larger undecided number than I’ve seen in other recent Iowa polls, and I really doubt 4 percent of Iowans will vote for a third-party candidate.

While both candidates show strong support among their respective bases, Obama has a slight lead among self-described independent voters with 41.9 percent of independents supporting him compared to 40.2 percent who back Romney. […]

The race stays tight across different sectors of the electorate as well, with Romney leading among men by 46.3 percent to 43 percent and Obama leading among women 45.9 percent to 44.1 percent.

We Ask America released toplines only of its poll conducted in Iowa through October 30: Obama 48.8 percent, Romney 47.3 percent, third party 3.9 percent. The margin of error was 3.0 percent, based on automated interviews with 1,174 Iowans.

All results are weighted to correct for under-/over-sampling in a number of demographic categories. And our last rounds of polls force a decision from our participants…no “undecided” answers are allowed. This allows us to get a better idea where the handful of stragglers really stand.

Again, I would be surprised if 4 percent of Iowans cast ballots for third-party presidential candidates. In 2008, the five minor-party presidential tickets received a combined 18,764 votes (1.2 percent).

Public Policy Polling released its latest Iowa survey commissioned by Health Care for America Now. Among 676 likely Iowa voters, Obama leads Romney 50 percent to 45 percent (margin of error plus or minus 3.8 percent). Obama has better favorability numbers than Romney and leads the Republican nominee among likely no-party voters by 47 percent to 40 percent. PPP’s full polling memo is here (pdf).

Most Iowa political junkies I’ve talked to expect the margin to be close here. But citing conversations with unnamed “strategists in both parties,” the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza said today that he considers Iowa only the eighth-closest state (after Colorado, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Ohio, and North Carolina). I will be surprised if the gap between the percentage voting for Romney and Obama in Iowa is larger than the corresponding margin in Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.

Both campaigns still believe they can win here. Ann Romney visited Iowa on Tuesday, President Bill Clinton was in Council Bluffs, Waterloo, and Mason City yesterday. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to campaign in Muscatine and Fort Dodge today. Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan will headline an event in Cedar Falls Friday. Both Obama and Romney will visit Dubuque on Saturday, and the president is coming to Des Moines one last time on Monday.

The latest early voting numbers show that Iowa Democrats lead by about 82,000 in absentee ballot requests but only by about 61,000 in absentee ballot returns.

Fun fact I learned yesterday from Linn County Auditor Joel Miller: voting early in person (as opposed to by mailed-in ballot) saves taxpayers about $3 per vote.

You can hardly turn on a radio or television in Iowa without hearing commercials supporting Romney or Obama. The Romney campaign and the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund are both running new television commercials highlighting Iowa newspaper endorsements of Romney. Ads by conservative groups like Crossroads GPS often feature women talking about how they voted for Obama in 2008 but are disappointed because of the economy and now support Romney. On radio stations with a younger or more female audience, I hear a lot of Obama commercials focusing on federal funding for Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose. On oldies stations, Obama commercials talk about how the AARP opposes Romney’s plan for Medicare.

Final note: Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz embarrassed our state by threatening to have international election observers arrested next Tuesday.

Officials from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have met with the Secretary of State’s Office as well as Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald and other county-level election officials in recent weeks, seeking permission to observe the Nov. 6 general election.

But Schultz, a Republican, says such monitoring would violate state law, which places limits on who may enter polling places during an election. Election officials, moreover, are empowered under the law to order the arrest of anyone not permitted at a polling place.

“Iowa law is very specific about who is permitted at polling places, and there is no exception for members of this group,” Schultz said in the statement, dated Oct. 30. […]

The group says its observations are “strictly impartial” and do not “intervene in the voting process in any way.” Its 2012 election observation mission includes 13 election experts from 10 countries based in Washington, D.C., and 44 more observers dispatched around the country.

Still, Schultz called the OSCE’s objectives “unclear.”

“They come from the guise that they just want to learn from what we do,” Schultz said in an interview on Wednesday. “They’re going to be writing a report, and these are people from other counties who have very different systems than we do. I don’t even think all of them are democracies.”

The OSCE’s member nations comprise 56 counties from Europe, central Asia and North America, including many European Union states, several countries from the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia as well as the U.S. and Canada.

It is not a part of the United Nations, although Schultz has referred to it as a UN agency.

It doesn’t make Iowa look good for our top elections official to assume foreign observers are planning to break state laws. Radio Iowa’s report provides this background:

The “Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe” was first invited to observe U.S. elections in 1990, by Republican President George H.W. Bush’s administration. A statement from the group that’s posted online says they have not violated state election laws in the previous U.S. elections they’ve already observed, “and they will not do so this time.”

Excerpt from that OSCE statement:

1. The Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) is not an agency of the United Nations.

2. OSCE election observers are bound by a strict code of conduct, requiring them to maintain impartiality in the conduct of their duties, to perform those duties in an unobtrusive manner, and to not interfere in the elections in the United States in any way. They are not election police or referees. They will not play any role in counting votes or resolving election disputes. Their only role is to observe the process and to report on the degree to which that process meets the commitments that the United States has agreed to uphold.

3. OSCE observers have not been invited by one political faction to investigate claims against any other political faction. The OSCE observers have been invited by the United States Government. In fact, the OSCE has already observed a number of US elections, including previous general elections in 2004 and 2008 and mid-term elections in 2002, 2006, and 2010, always at the invitation of the respective administration that was in office at the time of the election.

4. The presence of OSCE observers is not in violation of US law. In fact, the OSCE is very aware that individual states have their own laws regarding the presence of observers at polling stations, and OSCE observers have never violated these laws in any of the five US elections already observed, and they will not do so this time.

5. The United States is one of the founding members of the OSCE, having been a part of the Organization since it was first established in 1975 as an important multilateral forum for dialogue between East and West at the height of the Cold War. Click here to see the Organization’s timeline.

6. The OSCE has a longstanding invitation to monitor elections in every one of its participating States. The invitation can be found in the Organization’s Copenhagen Document, which was signed on behalf of the United States in 1990 by then-Secretary of State James Baker, under the Republican administration of George H. W. Bush. Baker, a native of the state of Texas, had previously been chief of staff under President Ronald Reagan.

7. Since agreeing to the principles of election observation, the United States has been a strong supporter of this practice, as both Democratic and Republican administrations have made it a standard practice over the years to invite OSCE observers to monitor both general and mid-term congressional elections.

UPDATE: I know nothing about this polling outfit, but a CallFire/Faith Horizon poll found Obama leading Romney by 50 percent to 47 percent among both registered voters and likely voters in Iowa. The company surveyed 1,082 registered voters and 891 likely voters between October 29 and 31, producing a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent on the likely voter sample. The toplines and questionnaire are available here (pdf).

Jennifer Rubin published a Romney campaign memo on Iowa today. Excerpts:

• Republicans have already turned out 128 percent of our absentee and early voters from four years ago – nine percent more than the Democrats have done.

• Republicans have cut Democrats’ historic advantage in in-person early voting by 75 percent. […]

• The Obama campaign is panicking, and you can see it in the way they are turning out their most reliable, most likely voters long before Election Day. They are using their highest propensity voters to pad their absentee and early vote numbers. Incredibly, half of Iowa Democrats who have voted in all four of the last four general elections have been made to request absentee ballots or vote early by the Obama campaign.

• The upshot is that Republicans have twice as many reliable, high propensity voters available on Election Day. Republicans already have a natural advantage on Election Day – after all, we invented the 72-Hour Program – which will only be larger in 2012 due to our record-shattering volunteer voter contact effort and the Democrats’ foolish decision to cannibalize their most reliable voters to pad their early voting figures. […]

• Republicans are already over-performing their share of absentee and early votes in 86 of Iowa’s 99 counties – including critical counties like Black Hawk, Cerro Gordo, Dallas, Des Moines, Dubuque, Johnson, Linn, Marion, Polk, Pottawattamie, Poweshiek, Sioux, Story, Wapello, and Winneshiek.

• Republicans are even over-performing their share of ballots returned in 71 of 99 counties compared to 2004, the first time a Republican candidate carried Iowa in a presidential election since 1984, and are over-performing 2004 statewide.

Rubin makes the key point here: “it is important to remember that simply doing better than 2008 will not be enough for Republicans.” No one expects Obama to match his 2008 margin over John McCain in Iowa, but he doesn’t need to do so.

Iowa Democrats have indeed encouraged consistent as well as inconsistent voters to cast early ballots. I don’t buy the “foolish decision to cannibalize their most reliable voters” line, though. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have also asked Iowans attending their rallies to go vote early. This fall I have listened in on telephone “town halls” during which Romney and Ryan urged listeners to vote early so that they could help get other supporters to the polls later.

SECOND UPDATE: Excerpt from the Democratic National Committee’s response to the Romney memo:

[Iowa] Democrats lead Republicans by more than 60 thousand ballots cast – about the same as our margin at this point in 2008, after which we went to win Iowa by 9.5 percentage points.

–          Furthermore, in every public poll conducted among Iowans who have voted early, President Obama has a double-digit lead.

–          At least one-third of Iowa voters have now cast a ballot in this election.  This means that Mitt Romney needs to win 58% of the remaining vote in order to tie Barack Obama

–          Democrats are doing a better job turning out sporadic or non-midterm voters, including new registrants, and first-time 2008 voters who have now voted early in 2012.  25% of Democratic early voters are non-midterm voters, compared to just 18% of Republican early voters

–          Democrats have out-registered Republicans 7 to 1 in the past 3 months, and we continue to build our registration advantage every day from now through election day as new voters register and vote at early voting locations all over the state

NOVEMBER 2 UPDATE: Romney senior strategist David Kochel lays out his case for why the Republican will win Iowa on Tuesday. He discounts various recent polls by noting that in 2008, Barack Obama under-performed his numbers in the final Des Moines Register poll by Selzer and Co. Kochel also argues that Iowa “Democrats’ Early-Vote Margins Have Collapsed,” while “Independents Have Turned Against Obama” and greater GOP intensity is fueling an exceptional ground game.

Gravis Marketing polled 594 likely voters in Iowa on November 1 and found Obama leading Romney by 49 percent to 45 percent (margin of error plus or minus 4 percent).

In contrast, Rasmussen Reports surveyed 750 likely voters in Iowa on October 30 and found Romney ahead by 49 percent to 48 percent (margin of error plus or minus 4 percent).  

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  • Obama to finish with a Mid-West swing

    I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but Obama will be capping his campaign on Monday with a swing through Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa. It can hardly escape notice that those states alone would add up to 271 electoral votes when combined with the reliable Democratic states.  

    • yes

      and I do think Obama will win all of those states. Wisconsin has usually been close in presidential elections but hasn’t gone for a Republican since 1984.

  • Matt Schultz threat to arrest observers

    Once again, Matt appears to be a jerk. There are ways, within Iowa law, for observers at the polls. The major political parties can each have three poll watchers. Schultz could have just approached both parties and asked them to designate some poll watcher slots to the international observers. An equal number from each of the two parties would be considered non-partisan. (Of course, there’s the possibility that the GOP said “no.”)

  • Getting consistent voters to vote early is good strategy.

    The more early votes, the better, whether they are consistent or sporadic voters. That makes the list shorter for GOTV efforts.

    • that's what I think

      I don’t see a downside to getting reliable voters off your list to contact on election day.