Poll watchers are getting their fix this week with dozens of poll results released each day. For those who don't have the time to track down all of the individual poll results, Smart Politics offers the first of four race summaries and projections for the key battles in the Upper Midwest beginning today with the state of Iowa.
IA-Governor: Democratic nominee Chet Culver has led GOP nominee Jim Nussle in each of the last four publicly released polls during the past month: KCCI-TV had Culver up 50-45 (October 30-31) and 49-44 (October 16-17), Rasmussen had Culver up 47-44 (October 19), and the Des Moines Register had Culver up 46-39 (October 8-11). The Nussle-Culver matchup has been tight and fierce all year, making it the most expensive campaign for any office in Iowa history - with contributions topping $13 million to date. Outgoing democratic governor Tom Vilsack remains reasonably popular among Iowans, with approval ratings in the 50s. Smart Politics Projection: Culver, Democratic hold.
IA US House-1: In this open seat, Democrat Bruce Braley has led Republican Mike Whalen in 3 of 4 publicly released polls in the past two months, including a 49-42 lead in the latest Reuters / Zogby poll (October 24-29). This marked a 20-point turnaround from Whalen's 47-34 lead in a poll taken four weeks earlier by the same organization. The district also has a democratic tilt, voting 53-46 for John Kerry in 2004 (in a state Kerry lost). Smart Politics Projection: Braley, Democratic pick-up.
IA US House-2: Fifteen-term Republican incumbent James Leach has a tight race on his hands in this Democratic-leaning district. Two Constituent Dynamic surveys taken in October both have Leach leading Democratic challenger David Loebsack by only two points, within the margin of error. Despite Leach's long tenure in the US House, the Democratic leanings of this district (the 2nd voted 55-44 for Kerry in 2004) combined with the national anti-Republican mood (Bush's approval rating is 35% here) make this race a virtual toss-up. Smart Politics Projection: Leach, GOP hold (in what will likely be the tightest US House race in the state)
IA US House-3: Five-term blue-dog Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell has maintained a double-digit lead over Republican challenger Jeff Lamberti in each of the three publicly released polls since mid-September, including a 53-41 lead in KCCI-TV's new poll (October 30-31). Boswell has endured near-competitive races in recent years, and IA-3 is a purple district (which split its presidential vote 50-50 in 2004). Smart Politics Projection: Boswell, Democratic hold.
IA US House-4: Six-term Republican incumbent Tom Latham is defending a region in Iowa that has voted Republican for the U.S. House in each race for the last two decades. No polls have been publicly released for this race. Latham was part of the 1994 "Republican revolution" that swept into Congress with a large number of first-time GOP victors. Latham beat Democrat nominee Sheila McGuire by 22 points in what was then the 4th Congressional District seat left open by 4-term Republican Fred Grandy. For the next three races Latham faced little competition: winning by 32 points in 1996, unopposed in 1998, and by 40 points in 2000. In 2002, however, Democrat nominee John Norris made the race somewhat more interesting, losing by 12 points. In 2004 Latham cruised to a 22-point victory over Democratic nominee Paul W. Johnson. In light of this historical trend, as well as Latham's continuous streak of double-digit wins, it is unlikely Democratic Seldon Spencer can steal this seat from the GOP. Smart Politics Projection: Latham, GOP hold.
IA US House-5: No polls have been publicly released in two-term republican incumbent Steve King's match-up against Democratic challenger Joyce Schulte and two third-party candidates. King handily won the inaugural race of the newly drawn 5th Congressional District in 2002, beating Democratic nominee Paul Shomshor by 24 points. In his first race against Schulte, in 2004, he easily won by 27 points. Western Iowa hasn't elected a Democrat since Berkley Bedell in 1975-1986, so King should remain a formidable candidate in his rematch against Schulte. Smart Politics Projection: King, GOP hold.