Iowa Republicans left many Democratic lawmakers unchallenged

The Republican Party is not fielding a candidate in more than two dozen Democratic-controlled Iowa House or Senate districts, while Democrats have left only seven GOP-held legislative seats uncontested. The disparity in party strategies is a departure from the last midterm election, when each party failed to nominate a candidate in more than two dozen state House districts alone.

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Record-breaking showing gives Libertarians political party status in Iowa

Unofficial results from Tuesday’s election show Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson received 58,796 votes in Iowa, about 3.8 percent of ballots cast.

Before this year, the most successful Libertarian ticket in Iowa gained 1 percent of the vote, way back in 1980. Although Johnson wasn’t able to maintain his much higher polling numbers from the late summer, he more than quadrupled his 2012 raw vote total and share of the vote here.

The result gives the Libertarian Party full “political party status” in Iowa. What does that mean in practical terms?

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Third-party and independent candidates in Iowa's 2014 elections

The filing period for general election candidates in Iowa closed last Friday, so it’s a good time to review where candidates not representing either the Democratic or Republican Party are running for office. The full candidate list is on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website (pdf(. After the jump I discuss all the federal, statewide, and state legislative races including at least one independent or minor-party candidate. Where possible, I’ve linked to campaign websites, so you can learn more about the candidates and their priorities.

Rarely has any Iowa election been affected by an independent or third-party candidate on the ballot. Arguably, the most recent case may have been the 2010 election in Iowa’s first Congressional district. Final results showed that Democratic incumbent Bruce Braley defeated Republican challenger Ben Lange by 4,209 votes, while conservative candidates Rob Petsche and Jason Faulkner drew 4,087 votes and 2,092 votes, respectively.

Any comments about Iowa’s 2014 elections are welcome in this thread.

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How third-party candidates fared in Iowa's 2010 elections

This summer, the Libertarian Party in Iowa embarked on a “10 percent strategy,” hoping to win 2 percent of the vote for governor in order to secure major-party status in 2012. Iowa lacks a tradition of strong third-party voting like our neighbor to the north, and the unofficial results indicate that no alternative to Terry Branstad and Chet Culver cleared the 2 percent threshold in the governor’s race. Iowa Party candidate Jonathan Narcisse came closer to that mark than Libertarian Eric Cooper.

Although no third party is set up to have a larger statewide impact in 2012, minor party candidates received an unusually high share of the vote in some areas. In a few races, the votes for third-party candidates exceeded the difference between the Democrat and the Republican.

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IA-Gov: No joy for Culver in new Register poll (updated)

The Des Moines Register’s new Iowa poll shows Republican Terry Branstad leading Governor Chet Culver by 52 percent to 33 percent among likely voters. Selzer and Co surveyed 803 Iowa adults, of whom 550 were classified as likely Iowa voters, between September 19 and 22. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percent.

I expected Branstad’s numbers to drop somewhat following the Republican primary, but his margin over Culver is almost exactly the same as the Register found the last time it polled this matchup in February. At that time Branstad led Culver 53-33, and Culver’s approval rating was 36 percent.

The new Selzer poll has no good news for Culver. His approval rating is 35 percent. Not only is Branstad polling above 50 percent, he leads “with voters from communities of all sizes, in all congressional districts and from all age groups and income levels.” No-party voters support Branstad by a 46 percent to 27 percent margin.

Culver’s campaign issued this statement on September 25:

“We believe that this poll serves as wake up call to Iowa voters,” said Governor Culver’s campaign manager, Donn Stanley. “When all is said and done, we believe that Iowans will ultimately choose Chet Culver, a leader who stands for Iowa values.

“The fact is,” Stanley continued, “all one has to do is look back as recently as Tom Vilsack’s race against Jim Ross Lightfoot in 1998 to see that this poll is not a harbinger of things to come. At this point in the race, Tom Vilsack was down a full 20 points in the Iowa Poll. I’m sure Governor Lightfoot would be happy to tell you the degree to which the Iowa Poll predicts the outcome of the race.”

That’s true, but Vilsack was not an incumbent with low approval ratings in a tough economy. Only 59 percent of likely voters said their minds were “firmly made up,” but I don’t know how Culver can convince the other 41 percent to give him another chance. It’s not as if no one ever heard of Branstad’s shortcomings:

Overall, 53 percent of likely voters say the candidate they are supporting is someone they can most easily tolerate, while only 36 percent say he is the best person for the job.

I hope the Culver campaign has budgeted well enough to stay up on television from now through election day. I doubt the Democratic Governors Association will spend any more money in Iowa this year.

UPDATE: More findings from the Register’s new poll are after the jump.

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