New surveys by Public Policy Polling indicate slight leads for an unnamed Democratic candidate against Republican incumbents Tom Latham (IA-03) and Steve King (IA-04). The generic Democrat’s lead over Latham increased after respondents were told Latham “supported the government shutdown.”
UPDATE: Added a press release from King’s challenger Jim Mowrer at the end of this post.
MoveOn.Org commissioned surveys by Public Policy Polling in 24 Republican-held U.S. House districts last week as the government shutdown was dominating the news. The big takeaway was that many GOP incumbents could suffer politically for refusing to fund the government as a tactic for blocking the 2010 health care reform law. In fact, generic Democrats led the incumbents in 17 of the 24 districts, including IA-03 and IA-04.
Click here (pdf) for the full results from PPP’s poll of 694 registered voters in IA-03 on October 2 and 3.
Click here (pdf) for the full results from PPP’s poll of 855 registered voters in IA-04 on October 2 and 3.
Latham tends to keep a low profile, so I wasn’t surprised to see that he is not particularly well-known for a Congressional incumbent. About 36 percent of respondents said they approved of the job Latham was doing, 40 percent disapproved, and 24 percent were unsure. In the first ballot test, an unnamed “Democratic opponent” led Latham by 46 percent to 43 percent, with 11 percent unsure.
Just 32 percent of respondents had a favorable impression of the “tea party,” and only 33 percent said they support “Congress shutting down major activities of the federal government as a way to stop the health care law from being put into place.” About 62 percent opposed the shutdown.
PPP’s robo-poll then asked respondents, “Do you support or oppose Congress holding back on increasing the nation’s borrowing limit, which could result in a default, as a way to stop the health care law from being put into place?” Only 34 percent supported that tactic, while 54 percent opposed it.
The next question asked, “Would you be less likely or more likely to support Congressman Latham if you knew he voted to support shutting down major activities of the federal government as a way to stop the health care law from being put into place, or does it not make a difference?” Only 32 percent said that information made them more likely to support Latham, 53 percent answered “less likely,” 12 percent said it would make no difference, and 3 percent were unsure.
The poll then tested voters preferences after “priming” them to think about the government shutdown: “Now that you know Congressman Latham supported the government shutdown, I’ll ask you one more time: If the election for Congress were held today, would you vote for re-elect Republican Tom Latham, or would you vote for his Democratic opponent?” This time 49 percent favored the generic Democrat, 42 percent said Latham, and 9 percent were unsure.
A notorious publicity hound, King is more widely known among his constituents than Latham is, but he didn’t fare much better in the PPP’s survey for MoveOn.org.
Despite the Republican lean of IA-04, only 40 percent of respondents said they approved of the job King was doing, 47 percent disapproved, and 12 percent were unsure. In the first ballot test, an unnamed “Democratic opponent” led King by 49 percent to 45 percent, with 7 percent unsure.
King has been one of the House Republicans most determined to defund “Obamacare,” but if PPP’s survey is any guide, his constituents don’t appear to share his enthusiasm for stretching out the shutdown. Just 37 percent of respondents had a favorable impression of the “tea party,” and only 32 percent said they support “Congress shutting down major activities of the federal government as a way to stop the health care law from being put into place.” About 57 percent opposed the shutdown.
PPP’s robo-poll then asked respondents about refusing to increase the debt limit as a way to block health care reform. Only 35 percent supported that tactic, while 50 percent opposed it.
When asked if they would be more or less likely to support King if they knew he voted to support the government shutdown, only 34 percent said that information made them more likely to support King, 45 percent answered “less likely,” 17 percent said it would make no difference, and 4 percent were unsure.
After “priming” respondents to think about the government shutdown, PPP’s poll did not find any change in the IA-04 ballot test: the unnamed Democratic opponent still led King by 49 percent to 45 percent.
Republicans will complain about the question wording in these polls. To hear King and Latham tell the story, they never voted “for” a shutdown, they voted “to keep the government open” while defunding key aspects of the hated Obamacare law. (Never mind the fact that it’s unprecedented for one party to insist on repealing or nullifying a law as a condition for funding the federal government.)
The messaging battle to define this conflict will continue throughout the 2014 election cycle. Last week, Latham’s challengers, Staci Appel and Gabriel De La Cerda, and King’s challenger Jim Mowrer hammered the incumbents for shutting down the government. But King and Latham say they are trying to get the government working again.
Iowa’s third Congressional district has a dead-even Cook Partisan Voting Index, indicating that voters’ preferences in the past two presidential elections have tracked closely to the nationwide voting pattern. If Democrats are really gaining in the generic House ballot nationally, as a Quinnipiac poll indicated last week, that’s bad news for Latham. From his perspective, the good news is 1) he will have almost unlimited money to negatively define his eventual Democratic opponent, and 2) he has a history of outperforming the top of the Republican ticket, as he showed during his first election in the redrawn IA-03 last year.
Iowa’s fourth Congressional district has a Cook PVI of R+5, indicating that voters’ preferences in the past two presidential elections were about 5 points more Republican than the election results nationwide.
King is more polarizing than Latham and won his district in 2012 by only around 30,000 votes, despite a Republican voter registration advantage exceeding 50,000. Still, he is likely to have more money to spend on his 2014 campaign than Mowrer.
Both King and Latham can take heart from one other fact: the likely voter universe in the 2014 midterm election may not resemble the composition of PPP’s random sample of registered voters last week. One very odd finding from the IA-04 poll was that King’s approval rating was higher among the women respondents than among the men. That can’t possibly be accurate. King has to hope PPP’s sample understated his support among male constituents, while Democrats will hope the poll overstated King’s support among women.
Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Press release from Mowrer’s campaign on October 7:
Poll Shows Rep. Steve King Losing Support Among 4th District Iowa Voters
Boone, IA – A poll of registered voters in Iowa’s 4th District has revealed that Congressman Steve King, who has come under fire for his controversial statements about Medicaid, immigration and the government shutdown, is losing support among his constituents and has become increasingly vulnerable in his bid for re-election. The poll conducted by Public Policy Polling shows that only 40% of voters approve of the job Congressman King is doing in Congress. Among Independents voters, which make up a large portion of the registered voters in the district, Congressman King’s approval decreases to just 31%.
Furthermore, the poll finds that if the election were held today, Congressman King would lose re-election to a “Democrat” 45% to 49% with only 7% undecided. The “Democrat opponent” leads Congressman King by 12% among independents.
“The Voters of Iowa’s 4th district are ready for a representative that shares their values. It is clear that Congressman King has put his own interests ahead of his constituents and they have had enough,” said Iraq War Veteran, former senior Pentagon official, and 4th district congressional candidate Jim Mowrer.
“Our campaign gives voters a real choice – a choice to vote against someone who is out for personal gain and to vote for someone who looks out for the people of Iowa’s 4th District, our men and women in uniform, and our Veterans,” added Mowrer.
This survey comes on the heels of the government shutting down, Congressman King’s summer tour of key presidential states and controversial statements about immigrants.
The poll was conducted between October 2nd and 3rd, 2013 by Public Policy Polling, which interviewed a district wide sample of 855 registered voters.
Click here to view the poll