IA-Sen: First Register poll since Harkin's announcement

The Des Moines Register’s Friday edition includes the key findings from its first Iowa poll by Selzer & Co. on the 2014 U.S. Senate race. The top Democratic contender to replace Senator Tom Harkin would be former Governor Tom Vilsack, who has not expressed any interest in the campaign.

Selzer & Co interviewed 802 Iowans at least 18 years old between February 3 and 6. The margin of error for the statewide sample is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. You can read the complete Des Moines Register story here. Key findings:

56 percent of respondents say Tom Vilsack would be “an appealing candidate” for U.S. Senate. Just 35 percent said he would not be an appealing candidate.

Only two other candidates tested were in positive territory: 40 percent said Representative Tom Latham would be appealing, versus 34 percent who said no. About 36 percent said Representative Bruce Braley would be appealing, while 33 percent said he would not be. The question wordings identified Latham and Braley as congressmen from the third and first districts, respectively, but did not mention their political party affiliation. This poll was taken before Braley announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination yesterday.

The Register poll indicated that 42 percent of Iowans would view former First Lady Christie Vilsack as an appealing Senate candidate, while 46 percent would not. I wonder what this is about:

“She is not running,” aide Jessica Vanden Berg told the Register, “because she is looking into another exciting opportunity.” Vanden Berg declined to reveal more details.

Other tested candidates who drew more “not appealing” than “appealing” responses: Representative Steve King, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, Bob Vander Plaats, and former Governor Chet Culver.

Jennifer Jacobs’ story also notes,

The percentage of Iowans who like Tom Vilsack as a Senate candidate exceeds those who don’t by 21 points. That’s evidence his approval runs deeper than just simple name recognition, Selzer said.

“Those are pretty solid numbers,” agreed Jennifer Duffy, a nonpartisan political expert and senior editor for the Cook Political Report.

Although Vilsack’s name always appears on short lists of possible Senate nominees, he has not yet publicly stated interest. But he hasn’t knocked down the idea, either.

This groundswell of support is the kind of signal that could sway a potential candidate into running, Duffy said.

“It’s a little bit complicated now that Braley has said he’s in,” she said. “Now it’s just awkward. Braley would have to back away if Vilsack wanted to run, and that takes a little finesse on the part of national Democrats to make that happen.”

I would be surprised if Vilsack tried to bigfoot Braley in this situation. He seems content running the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s another story if Chuck Grassley retires in 2016. At that point I would not be at all surprised to see a Senate bid by Tom Vilsack.

Any comments about the Register poll or the 2014 Senate campaign are welcome in this thread.

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