Top 5 Reasons Patty Judge Could ABSOLUTELY Win Senate Race
All polling should come with a “this is only a snapshot in time” warning label, like tobacco and other addictive products. As a founding partner in RABA Research, a new, bipartisan polling firm, many times I need to even remind myself that polls can shift under the weight of current events or a deepening unease about a candidate or a party.
RABA Research recently partnered with Simpson College to release our first statewide Iowa poll which showed Sen. Chuck Grassley up in the U.S. Senate race over Patty Judge 50% to 37%. For full disclosure I am a strong Patty Judge supporter and I worked for her in the governor’s office for more than a year. I’ve also donated to her campaign and I believe she will win (more on that later).
When it comes to polling RABA has a bipartisan partnership that is designed to take the bias out of our numbers. Did our GOP partners love when we released numbers showing Hillary Clinton with a 15-point lead after the conventions? Probably not. Do I love showing a 13-point lead for Grassley? Nope, but I do enjoy working with my Democratic and Republican partners, along with the incredibly talented Simpson College team on sifting through the data to see what is going on with the electorate as it stands today.
Many Democrats and Republicans familiar with the race say given Grassley’s massive ad buying and the fact that voters are just getting back from August vacations, the RABA-Simpson numbers make sense. However, just like Clinton’s national lead has shrunk dramatically in what seems like the blink of an eye, it’s clear Grassley’s lead in Iowa could do the same in this literally unbelievable election cycle.
How? Let’s take a look:
#5: Obama. President Obama’s approval numbers are the highest they have been since he first took office in 2009, and he has yet to make his case for Clinton and Judge in Iowa. Rest assured that Barack Obama will soon come to Iowa and when he does he will use his megaphone to remind Iowans of the historic Grassley obstruction on his Supreme Court nominee.
#4: Undecideds. Our poll shows 13% of Iowans are still undecided about the race. That number should be in single digits by now for the 36-year incumbent. This shows there are plenty of voters unenthused about the idea of making Grassley a 42-year incumbent. In September 2010 the Des Moines Register Iowa Poll showed Grassley with a 31-point lead over Conlin and just six percent undecided. The current 13% undecided number is especially stunning since Grassley has dramatically outspent Judge nearly 3:1 on television to date.
#3: Democrats Come Home. Historically Grassley has won his races with large numbers of Democrats splitting their tickets to vote for him. Now, over the past six years, unlike most senior U.S. Senators in office for decades he has become MORE partisan rather than LESS and Grassley’s historic obstruction of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee is what makes this race closer than any of his races since 1980. Our RABA numbers show many Democrats and Independents are still undecided about the Senate race, which could be a big problem for Grassley once early voting starts at the end of September. If Judge shores up 90 percent of Democrats (which should not be difficult) and a majority of Independents abandon Grassley and break to Judge (tougher but absolutely possible) this quickly becomes a low, single-digit race (see “Ground Game” for what happens next).
#2: Ground Game. Without question Judge has a significant advantage over Grassley when it comes to organization, and she can thank Hillary Clinton. The Clinton campaign has been registering voters and signing up Democrats to vote by mail for months now, while the Trump campaign has barely gotten off the ground. Yes, Trump gets lots of people to come to his Des Moines rallies, but that is as meaningless as yard signs if they have not blanketed the state with a field operation. Smart people who study campaigns say strong field programs vs. weak (or absent) programs can give candidates who invest in field an advantage of about two points in Iowa. In a tight battleground like Iowa that could absolutely be the difference on election day — just ask the Gore and Bush campaigns in 2000 and 2004. Both were won with less than one percent of the vote.
#1: Wave? Since 2006 Iowa has been caught in every national electoral wave and this year could be no different. I know something about waves since I was personally caught in one during my own race for Secretary of State in 2014. There were ripples in September, but nobody saw the massive wave coming until about a week before Election Day. Democrats knocked on all our door targets, I had television ads across the state while my opponent had none, and our campaign’s own internal polls two weeks out had us winning outside the margin of error. Then the wave hit late in the campaign and I lost by less than two percent. And yes, long-term incumbents can get knocked out by waves too, just ask former Rep. Jim Leach who was knocked out during the 2006 Democratic wave after serving 30 years in congress, or the legendary Rep. Neal Smith who was defeated after serving 36 years during the historic 1994 Republican landslide election. If I had to pick which way a national wave could swing, given Obama’s approval rating, Clinton’s debate skills, and Trump’s inability to articulate a plan for anything and penchant for grossly offensive comments, Democrats across the board could see serious gains in November — I’m talking about winning multiple congressional races and Democrats taking over the Iowa House-type gains.
Finally, and most importantly, Patty Judge is clear-eyed and has known all along this will be a tough fight right up until the end. Hopefully one day when we gather at Democratic events we will wax nostalgic about Judge overcoming a 13-point deficit rather than always reminiscing about the 20-point deficit Vilsack overcame in mid-September 1998.
(By the way, Vilsack overcame a 20-point deficit in 1998 with no presidential campaign to help him! The headline that day in the Register? “Political Experts: Vilsack faces impossible odds”)