Pondering Polls: The Des Moines Register released its newest Iowa Poll on the race for governor. I can’t think anyone in Governor Chet Culver’s office was smiling. Culver’s Republican challenger, Terry Branstad, is up 19%. That means Culver made up just 1% since the last Iowa Poll in February. Culver for the past year has told reporters there is a lot of time left in this race. He is quickly running out of time.
Despite these developments, the numbers barely budged:
He has officially launched his re-election
taken part in the first debate (where most insiders I’ve talked to think he either tied or slightly beat Branstad)
admitted mistakes (although not specifically pointing to any decision he has made, other than to blame communications’ problems. Speaking of, he has made yet another communications’ change in his campaign office. Ali Glisson is out. I don’t know how many people this now makes who have worked and left Culver’s campaign in the past year.)
repeatedly attacked Branstad and even started to say he “lies”
and he pulled out his cute kids to try to sell their dad’s image in new ads.
What else can he do? I did find a few numbers interesting in the poll. As the Register’s Tom Beaumont points out, Culver is losing Independents, communities of all sizes, all congressional districts, all age groups and all income levels. But here’s what piqued my curiosity.
63% back Culver’s commitment to improving education.
73% believe the state investing in infrastructure improvements (roads, bridges, etc.) will attract business (I-JOBS anyone?)
58% support keeping the state’s commitment to stem-cell research
56% go for free pre-school for all Iowans, which will lead to a better work force
33% said they could be persuaded to change their pick for governor
Those would all seem to offer some hope for Culver, right? So what isn’t working? And is it possible for him to turn these numbers around in such a short time? His campaign sent this out within minutes of the Register’s poll going on-line.
“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.”
Is this really a fair comparison? Back then, Tom Vilsack was a relatively little-known candidate running in his first statewide race against Republican Congressman Jim Ross Lightfoot. Vilsack was down big with just 3 or 4 weeks to go. But there was no incumbent governor in this race.. The Culver-Vilsack comparison would seem to be far more appropriate had Vilsack been running for a second term as governor (as Culver is now) and not running for his first term.