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Election Profile: Iowa U.S. Senate

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Smart Politics is running a series of election profiles of all the Upper Midwestern U.S. Senate and U.S. House races leading up to the November 4th elections. The series will culminate with Smart Politics' official projections. The eighth profile in the series is the Iowa U.S. Senate contest.

Candidates:
Democrat: Tom Harkin (4-term incumbent)
Republican: Christopher Reed

History:
Senator Harkin is looking to join Republican Charles Grassley in winning his 5th consecutive term to the U.S. Senate from the Hawkeye State. Harkin was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984, winning by 11.8 points over 1-term Republican incumbent Roger W. Jespen. Unlike Grassley, Harkin has not enjoyed particularly comfortable re-election campaigns to date: Harkin won by 9.1 points in 1990 (over Thomas J. Tauke), by 5.1 points in 1996 (over Jim Lightfoot), and by 10.4 points in 2002 (over Greg Ganske). Grassley, by contrast, has won his four re-election campaigns by 32.4 points, 42.4 points, 37.9 points, and 42.3 points in 2004.

Harkin chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and also serves on the Committee on Appropriations, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Republican Christopher Reed, a businessman and Navy veteran, is running on a platform of “Iowa values, conservative principles.? Reed’s priorities include achieving peace through strength, winning the War on Terror, having stricter border enforcement, decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil through more domestic drilling, and decreasing taxes.

For the first time since 1990, there will be no third party candidate on the ballot in a U.S. Senate race in Iowa.

Overall, since popular vote Senate elections began in 1914, Republicans have won 22 races in Iowa, compared to just 12 for the Democrats. That means Harkin has won one-third of all Democratic electoral victories to the U.S. Senate in state history.

Outlook:
Harkin has enjoyed approval ratings above 50 percent in nearly four-dozen public opinion polls conducted this decade – with ratings averaging in the mid-50s during the past year. While not quite as popular as his Republican counterpart Grassley, Harkin should breeze to his fifth consecutive Senate victory.

Previous post: Election Profile: Iowa's 5th Congressional District (2008)
Next post: Election Profile: Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District (2008)

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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