Iowa City — The Iowa Senate race between Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley and an as-yet-unnamed Democratic opponent continues to heat up and may be red hot come November 2. Grassley, an undefeated U.S. Senator from Iowa since 1981, may face his first real risk of upset in the 2010 election, but that all depends on whom the Democrats pick as contender in the June 8 primary. Republicans swear that it will be a “red” year, but the veneer of confidence is betrayed by an unmistakable edginess as poll results show Democrats gaining as the calendar advances toward Election Day.
The reason for the poll change? Democrat Roxanne Conlin.
According to Rasmussen Reports, a survey taken on April 29 reveals that Conlin appears have the most muscle to work against Grassley. The April 29 survey shows Conlin 40 percent to Grassley’s 53. A 13-point deficit to be sure, but that is significant because Rasmussen survey shows Conlin at 36 percent for February and March with Grassley at 53 and 55 respectively. Grassley is holding a steady lead, but Conlin appears to be gaining. It is too soon for the May report, but the results will be telling.
Further, according to the Des Moines Register, a KCCI poll taken in February, Grassley stood at 49 percent, just 9 points ahead of Conlin’s 40. Another indication that this election year may portend ill for the Republican incumbent is that his approval numbers appear to be declining over the long term. According to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com, a graph of Grassley’s approval ratings from May 2003 show him slipping from 74 percent all the way to 57 in September 2009, and Rasmussen shows that slipping to 53 percent by April 29.
An approval rating of 57 percent is excellent, but the drop of 21 points is profound. Nicole Karlis, writing for the University of Iowa Daily Iowan, reports Conlin as saying, “We can win,” during a talk at the U of I Iowa Memorial Union on May 5. Karlis reports that Conlin also said of Grassley, “He’s never had a viable opponent, and he has one now.”
Also vying for the Democratic nomination are Bob Krause of Fairfield, Iowa, and Tom Fiegan from Clarence. However, the April 29 Rasmussen survey shows Grassley leading Krause 57 to 31 and leading Fiegan 57 to 30. For the time being, at least, Krause and Fiegan appear to be mere shadows of Conlin. Given the numbers, Conlin is considered the favorite and most likely to succeed in a show down with Grassley. Of the three democratic hopefuls, Greg Giroux of CQ Politics reports that Conlin “…has dominated the Democratic field in fundraising, with more than $1.5 million receipts through the end of March.”
Assuming that Conlin goes to bat for the Democrats, many Republicans are outwardly dismissive of Conlin and feel that Grassley’s lead is unassailable. Even Democrats, though determined to give Grassley a run for his life, are skeptical of the chances of really succeeding. Still, the polls are revealing when broken down by gender. The Iowa Independent reports that Grassley’s lead among both male and female voters is the least when matched with Conlin, and that he leads Conlin only by 5 percent among Iowa women. Although Conlin certainly seems to be the Iowa Democrats’ favorite, the June 8 primary will ultimately decide who faces off against Grassley.
Iowa Senate: Grassley 53%, Conlin 49%, Rasmussen Reports
Toplines – 2010 Iowa Senate – April 29, 2010, Rasmussen Reports
Kathie Obradovich, Culver, Conlin numbers improve, DesMoinesRegister.com
Nate Silver, Health Care is Hazardous to Poll, FiveThirtyEight.com
Nicole Karlis, Conlin says she’ll beat Gassley, The Daily Iowan
Greg Giroux, Poll says Conlin Would be Strongest Grassley Opponent, CQ Politics
Chase Martyn, Grassley could be vulnerable in 2010, The Iowa Independent