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.