Why did Kim Reynolds dodge questions about her Iowa Supreme Court choice?

Governor Kim Reynolds will hold less frequent press conferences for the duration of this year’s campaign, her staff acknowledged this week after persistent questioning by political reporter Barbara Rodriguez. The governor’s spokesperson downplayed the significance of abandoning the weekly presser, an Iowa tradition Governor Bob Ray established and Terry Branstad and Tom Vilsack maintained. All public events on Reynolds’ schedule would provide opportunities for journalists to ask questions, Rodriguez was told on July 31.

That promise didn’t hold up well. The very next day, Reynolds read carefully from written remarks when announcing District Court Judge Susan Christensen as her choice for the Iowa Supreme Court. Christensen briefly thanked her family, friends, and colleagues, and promised to support the constitution. End scene, with no question time for the assembled media. The governor’s staff also ignored my written inquiry related to the Supreme Court appointment.

It’s not hard to guess why Reynolds would block journalists from asking her or Christensen about the process for selecting the first new justice to join Iowa’s high court in seven and a half years.

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IA-Gov: Kim Reynolds' net approval has dropped dramatically

Only 40 percent of registered Iowa voters approved of Governor Kim Reynolds’ work in the latest quarterly survey by Morning Consult, released on July 25. Some 39 percent of respondents disapproved and 21 percent didn’t know enough about Reynolds to have an opinion.

The findings suggest a noticeable slide in Reynolds’ net approval over the past six months. During the third quarter of 2017, Morning Consult found Reynolds was “off to a solid start, with an approval rating of 45 percent and a disapproval rating of 27 percent.” At that time, 30 percent of Iowa respondents didn’t know enough to have an opinion. The numbers from the fourth quarter of 2017 were little changed: 44 percent approve/29 percent disapprove/27 percent don’t know. Disapproval ticked up among Iowans surveyed from January through March, when the Republican-controlled legislature was in session, but the governor was still clearly in net positive territory: 42 percent approve/35 percent disapprove/23 percent don’t know.

Now, the difference between Reynolds’ approve and disapprove numbers is less than the Morning Consult poll’s 2 percent margin of error. As a general rule, any approval rating below 50 percent suggests an incumbent has reason to worry; 40 percent approval is well into the danger zone.

Before Democratic readers start celebrating, a few cautionary notes are in order:

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Duplicity in action: The Kim Reynolds mental health ad

Matt Chapman had a “visceral reaction” to the governor’s campaign ad about mental health. -promoted by desmoinesdem

If you watch Jeopardy! or the local news, you have been seeing a lot of campaign commercials for Governor Kim Reynolds. The first three were biographical in content, and the latest attacks Fred Hubbell over his leadership of the Younkers department store chain. (Iowa Starting Line pointed out that ad featured local GOP activists posing as people affected by store closures.)

The fourth Reynolds campaign spot, “Leader,” gaslights Iowans on our state’s inadequate mental health system.

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IA-Gov: Reynolds hits the panic button

Governor Kim Reynolds launched her first negative television commercial on July 20, with a spot focusing on decisions Fred Hubbell made as chief executive of Younkers during the 1980s. The move came a few days after another national election forecaster declared the Iowa governor’s race a “toss up,” as Cook Political Report did last month.

Incumbents who are confident about their standing with voters don’t typically go negative on tv this far out from an election. New campaign disclosures filed on July 19 show that while Reynolds had more cash on hand than her opponent–even after spending $1.2 million on advertising since the end of May–Hubbell more than doubled her fundraising during the same period and will likely be competitive financially through the November election.

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Then and now: Kim Reynolds on Steve King

Governor Kim Reynolds downplayed her association with U.S. Representative Steve King on Friday, saying “No two people are going to agree on everything” and describing the bigoted loudmouth as just “one of over 4,000 honorary chairs” of her campaign.

When it has suited her political purposes, she has spoken of King in a much more flattering way.

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Interview: Ann Selzer stands by sampling method for primary polls

J. Ann Selzer has earned a reputation as “the best pollster in politics” through “old-school rigor” and not adjusting her data to fit guesses about the structure of the electorate. Des Moines-based Selzer & Co. is one of only five polling firms in the country currently rated A+ by FiveThirtyEight. Like many media pollsters, the firm uses a random digit dial method to find respondents for surveys about a primary or Iowa caucus. Most internal polls commissioned by campaigns draw the sample from a registered voter list, with an emphasis on past participants in either a Democratic or Republican nominating contest.

I sought comment from Selzer on her methodology because of Fred Hubbell’s and Cindy Axne’s unexpectedly large margins of victory in this year’s Iowa Democratic primary. In a telephone interview with Bleeding Heartland last week, Selzer explained why she will stick with her sampling method for future primary elections.

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