IA-Sen: Democratic establishment lining up behind Theresa Greenfield

Key individuals and Democratic-aligned organizations moved quickly this week to boost Theresa Greenfield, the third candidate to announce a challenge to U.S. Senator Joni Ernst. Both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List, a major source of support for pro-choice Democratic women candidates, announced their support on June 6.

Greenfield’s campaign released its first list of prominent supporters on June 5, including former Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson, five current and two former state legislators, two former leaders of the Iowa Democratic Party, three local elected officials, and several longtime Democratic campaign hands.

Some candidates space out high-profile endorsements over a long period in order to general media coverage. An early show of organizational strength like this is typically aimed at discouraging other candidates from joining the field. Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker and former Congressional candidate J.D. Scholten have both said they may run for Senate.

Greenfield’s current competitors for the Democratic nomination are Kimberly Graham and Eddie Mauro. In a written statement following Greenfield’s June 3 launch, Mauro commented, “Iowans want a spirited primary not influenced by Washington insiders or the establishment, and deserve new progressive leadership in the United States Senate with a record of taking action and leading on progressive issues.” That statement and this week’s other relevant news releases are enclosed below.

UPDATE: U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand endorsed Greenfield on June 6 as well.

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IA-Sen: Grassley leads by 17 points in new Selzer poll

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is outperforming the top of the Republican ticket and leads former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge by 53 percent to 36 percent in the latest Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom. The Register’s William Petroski wrote up the key findings:

The Iowa Poll shows Grassley has broad support, leading Judge among all groups tested except for four: Democrats, Hillary Clinton supporters, former Bernie Sanders supporters and people who identify with no religion. Among political independents, Grassley leads Judge 54 percent to 30 percent. He leads among men and women and among all age, income and education groups.

Grassley’s job approval rating — with 56 approving and 30 percent disapproving among all adults, not just likely voters — is identical to where it stood in September 2010, before he cruised to victory that November, defeating Democrat Roxanne Conlin by 31 percentage points.

Among the same 642 “likely voter” respondents, Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton by just 43 percent to 39 percent.

Selzer’s poll was in the field before the release of a 2005 videotape in which Trump bragged about assaulting women he finds attractive. Democrats have blasted Grassley for condemning Trump’s comments but urging Republicans to stick with the GOP ticket, because of the election’s likely impact on the U.S. Supreme Court. I doubt the Trump tape will affect Grassley’s re-election numbers, though.

Iowa Republicans have been spiking the football on this race for some time. Yesterday the Twitter accounts of Grassley’s campaign and campaign manager Bob Haus directed followers to the liberal Daily Kos website, where IA-Sen is now listed as safe Republican. Various other election forecasters see the race the same way.

Many Iowans who preferred State Senator Rob Hogg for U.S. Senate, as I did, have privately expressed frustration that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has spent almost no money here, after intervening in the Democratic primary to recruit and promote Judge. The DSCC’s tactical choice is understandable, because more than half a dozen other Senate seats are better pickup opportunities than Iowa’s. But I do wish they’d stayed out of the primary. Although Judge had higher name recognition, I never did see evidence that she was in a position to make this race more competitive than Hogg. She has held relatively few public events around the state since winning the nomination. Hogg would have been much a more active campaigner, which might have helped our down-ballot candidates.

Was Grassley ever truly vulnerable? Beating a six-term senator was always going to be hard in a state that generally re-elects its incumbents. Grassley has been able to spend millions more dollars on tv ads than any challenger could have managed. (I enclose below his latest positive spot.) His support took a hit from his handling of the Supreme Court vacancy, which inspired the DSCC to recruit Judge. I would guess that refusing to hold confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland is the main reason Grassley’s leading by “only” 17 points now. Selzer’s polls for the Des Moines Register in September and October 2010 showed him 31 points ahead of Roxanne Conlin.

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Quinnipiac adds to remarkable polling consensus on IA-Sen race

Today Quinnipiac supplemented its latest poll on the presidential race in Iowa with findings about Senator Chuck Grassley’s campaign against Democratic challenger Patty Judge. Key graphs from the polling memo:

Quinnipiac IA-Sen photo Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 3.39.14 PM_zpsdvw0h0a4.png

The 51 percent to 42 percent lead for Grassley is remarkably close to the 52-42 gap in last week’s polls by Suffolk University and Marist for NBC and the Wall Street Journal.

I infer that polls from earlier this summer, showing Grassley below 50 percent and leading Judge by just 7 points, slightly understated his lead. One of those polls looked like a outlier in general. Two of the surveys were conducted by Public Policy Polling, which did some work for the Judge campaign before the Democratic primary.

That’s not to say that Judge can’t make this election more competitive–only that she can’t wait around for the race to fall into her lap. She’s losing men by a lot and isn’t making up for it among women voters. She hasn’t held many public events this summer and needs to campaign more aggressively over the next two and a half months. In addition to improving her name ID, Judge has to give Iowa voters a reason to fire Grassley after so many years of public service. The obvious issue, the one she has vowed to hammer home since the day she announced her campaign, is the Senate Judiciary Committee chair’s refusal to hold confirmation hearings for Judge Merrick Garland. Iowans don’t support Grassley’s stance on the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, but it will take more work to convince enough of them to send the senator into retirement for that reason.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put their thumb on the scale for Judge before the Democratic primary, but national strategists have quite a few more promising pickup opportunities than Iowa at present. The DSCC won’t come in with big money here unless the polling starts to show Grassley more vulnerable than he now appears.

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IA-Sen: Patty Judge played not to lose, and it looks like she's not losing

Since launching her U.S. Senate campaign in March, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge has held relatively few public events. She hasn’t put out attention-getting policy proposals. Her campaign has announced high-profile endorsements through news releases, not at press conferences where tv cameras would be rolling. She didn’t come to the two televised debates ready to drop headline-grabbing talking points.

Both Iowa and national Republicans have mocked Judge’s sparse public schedule, asking, “Where’s Patty?” Even some Democrats have been puzzled by the experienced candidate’s low-profile approach to a race she entered very late.

Judge’s strategy had a certain logic, though. If her internal polling showed her well ahead of the other three Democrats seeking the nomination–expected given her higher visibility as a former statewide office-holder–packing her schedule with rallies and town-halls would have little upside. Republican video trackers, like the ones who have been following State Senator Rob Hogg around since last summer, would catch any slip and blow it out of all proportion.

Two public polls released in recent days lend support to persistent rumors in Democratic circles that surveys conducted for the Judge campaign put her 10 or 15 points ahead of her nearest rival.

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IA-Sen: DSCC makes the obvious official, Judge doesn't talk about it

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee recruited former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge to run against Senator Chuck Grassley, praised her as a “formidable challenger” the day she launched her campaign, and invited her to lunch with Democratic senators in Washington a few days later. So it was no surprise when the DSCC made its support for Judge official on April 20.

Judge’s campaign has touted endorsements from influential Iowa Democrats but didn’t spread the word about the DSCC’s announcement this week–probably because backing from Washington insiders feeds into talking points Republicans and Democratic rivals have already been using.

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