IA-Sen: Conlin (D) launches first tv ad

Roxanne Conlin, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, begins television advertising across Iowa this week. I’m not able to embed the commercial, but click here to watch. The Conlin campaign released this transcript:

“I’m Roxanne Conlin. Taking on the special interests has been the cause of my life. Like taking on the big banks to help family farms at risk of foreclosure. I took on corrupt politicians and corporations who violated the public trust. I’m running for U.S. Senate to take this fight to Washington. Fight for relief on Main Street, not more bailouts for Wall Street. Because the special interests have had their turn. Now, it’s our turn. I’m Roxanne Conlin and I approved this message.”

I noticed a small omission from that transcript: in the commercial, Conlin says, “As a prosecutor I took on corrupt politicians…” That’s important, because many Iowans may not remember that she served as U.S. attorney for Iowa’s southern district from 1977 to 1981.

This ad is a shorter version of the introductory video Conlin’s campaign released last fall, which I discussed here. It’s a fairly basic message for Iowans who haven’t heard of Conlin, and it makes sense for her to raise her profile just before the June 8 primary. Though this ad doesn’t mention five-term Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley, it starts building the case Conlin will make later in the campaign: Grassley has stood up for special interests throughout his career. I believe Grassley voted for the financial reform bill last week in order to undercut the narrative Conlin will build against him. You don’t normally see Grassley voting with most Democrats and a handful of New England Republicans.

Iowa’s primary election takes place on June 8. Two other Democrats are challenging Grassley: Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen. Most people expect Conlin to win the primary easily. She began the race with more name recognition and has campaigned in all 99 counties since the start of the year. Conlin has already raised more money than all of Grassley’s previous challengers combined. She out-raised Grassley in the first quarter and had about $1 million cash on hand as of March 31, while the Krause and Fiegen campaigns had less than $1,000 on hand between them.

Late last week Conlin called on Grassley to denounce Kentucky Republican Rand Paul’s comments about civil rights. Paul suggested that private businesses should be allowed to discriminate. Without mentioning Paul’s name, Grassley’s spokesperson told Iowa Independent,

Sen. Grassley’s position is that if a place is open for business it should be open for everyone.  You may know that Grassley was a co-sponsor of the 1982 and 2006 reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act, the 1965 companion to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  He was in the middle of the agreement reached on the 1982 legislation. Grassley also supported the 1991 extension of the Civil Rights Act.  That was the last major amendment to the Civil Rights Act.  It was broadened in 1972, after its passage in 1964.

Grassley is wise to put some distance between himself and Paul’s views. As Assistant Iowa Attorney General in the 1970s, Conlin prosecuted the first cases under our state’s civil rights law.

IA-Sen: Rasmussen finds Grassley lead shrinking

The latest Rasmussen Iowa poll shows five-term incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley still over 50 percent against all Democratic challengers, but with a smaller lead than he had earlier in the year. Rasmussen surveyed 500 likely Iowa voters on April 29, giving a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Survey questions and toplines are here.

Roxanne Conlin is the Democrat who gives Grassley the narrowest lead, 53 percent to 40 percent. Grassley led Conlin 55-36 in Rasmussen’s previous Iowa poll, taken in mid-March. Rasmussen’s summary notes that Grassley “now leads Conlin by only five points among women.”

Many politically active Iowa Democrats believe Conlin can help Governor Chet Culver and our down-ticket candidates if she motivates high turnout among women. I also know many women who plan to volunteer for Conlin’s campaign. She has already held campaign events in all 99 Iowa counties.

Grassley leads Democrat Bob Krause by 57 percent to 31 percent, the same as in Rasmussen’s March poll. He leads Tom Fiegen by 57 percent to 30 percent, a slightly smaller margin than his 57-28 lead in March.

This race is still Grassley’s to lose; Rasmussen finds 63 percent of respondents have a very or somewhat favorable opinion of the incumbent, while only 34 percent have a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion. The corresponding numbers for Conlin are 44 favorable/30 unfavorable.

However, a few stumbles by Grassley could make this race highly competitive in a hurry. At the very least Conlin is going to make it a lot closer than any other Democrat has against Grassley in the last 25 years.

I expect Conlin to have little trouble winning the Democratic primary on June 8. Not only is she the best-known candidate, she out-raised Grassley in the first quarter and had about $1 million cash on hand as of March 31. According to FEC reports, Krause had $352 and Fiegen had $582 on hand at the end of the first quarter.

UPDATE: Rasmussen’s numbers on the governor’s race continue to point to a tough road ahead for Governor Chet Culver. He trails former Governor Terry Branstad 53 percent to 38 percent, little changed from Branstad’s 52-36 lead in Rasmussen’s March poll. Bob Vander Plaats leads Culver 45-41 in the new poll, up from a 42-40 lead in the March poll. Culver is barely ahead of Rod Roberts in the new poll, 43-41, little changed from the 40-38 lead Culver had against Roberts in the previous poll.

It’s not encouraging for an incumbent to be stuck around 40 percent against all challengers. Culver needs to bring up his own numbers and get out there to tell voters about his administration’s successes. For a preview of the case Culver will make with Iowa voters, watch his appearance on Chuck Todd’s MSNBC program last week.

Assuming Branstad will be the Republican nominee, Culver’s campaign will have to take him on aggressively. The race is bound to tighten up, but as long as Branstad is polling above 50 percent the odds are against Culver. Perhaps the governor can needle Branstad and provoke the same kind of response Vander Plaats got during the second Republican debate.

IA-Sen: Conlin releases strong fundraising numbers (updated)

Iowa Democrat Roxanne Conlin gave her U.S. Senate campaign $250,000 during the first quarter of 2010 and raised nearly $630,000 from other donors.

From this morning’s press release:

Conlin Campaign Raises More than all of Grassley’s Past Challengers Combined

Has $1 Million in the Bank

Banked $879,615 in First Quarter with NO PAC or WASHINGTON LOBBYIST MONEY

Des Moines – Roxanne Conlin’s grassroots campaign for the US Senate has more than $1 million in the bank.  Iowans made up 81 percent of the campaign’s contributors and she has not accepted one penny from Washington lobbyists or PACs.

“I’m humbled by the outpouring of support for our campaign,” said Conlin. “Our grassroots effort has reached 93 counties and we will reach the remaining six this weekend.  Iowans keep telling me, Chuck Grassley is not the same man they sent to Washington decades ago.  We need a fighter who will stand up for Main Street and not bail out Wall Street.”


No PAC or Washington lobbyist funds.

81 percent of donors are Iowans.

78 percent of contributions are $100 or less.


Campaign to date raised:                                    $1,483,191

First Quarter 2010 raised:                                   $629,615

Candidate contribution:                                      $250,000

First Quarter PAC Money:                                  $0

First Quarter Federal Lobbyist Money:               $0

First Quarter 2010 total:                                      $879,615

Cash on hand:                                                      $1,000,455

Those are impressive numbers for a challenger, especially since Grassley is not considered one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents. Grassley’s last Democratic opponent, Art Small, only raised about $136,000 during the whole 2004 campaign, and about $70,000 of that total came from the candidate himself.

I haven’t seen Grassley’s latest fundraising numbers yet. He raised about $810,000 during the fourth quarter of last year and began 2010 with about $5 million on hand. While Grassley will surely have a big cash-on-hand edge over Conlin, she will have the resources to run a statewide campaign.

I haven’t seen first-quarter numbers for the other Democratic candidates, Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen, but at year-end Fiegen had about $400 on hand, and Krause had about $3,500.

At Iowa Independent, Jason Hancock covered a recent dustup among the Democratic candidates over debates before the June 8 primary. I hope we will see some debates in addition to candidate forums. I plan to vote for Conlin, whose work I have long admired and who is best positioned to make the race competitive. Not only has she raised money, she will have a strong volunteer base. Just in my own precinct I know several Democrats who are not inclined to volunteer for Governor Chet Culver but will knock on doors or make phone calls for Conlin. By next Monday she will have held campaign events in all 99 Iowa counties.

I respect the Democrats who prefer Krause or Fiegen, and I understand why some people were annoyed by Iowa Democratic Party chair Michael Kiernan’s apparent favoritism last year. Competitive primaries are often healthy for a party, and I particularly appreciate that Krause has kept his message focused on his good ideas and Grassley’s flaws as a public servant. I hope the final eight weeks of the primary campaign will not become too divisive.

UPDATE: Grassley raised $613,577 in the first quarter and has about $5.3 million cash on hand. I am surprised that Conlin was able to out-raise the incumbent for the quarter even if you don’t count her own large contribution to the campaign.

IA-Sen, IA-Gov: Grassley, Branstad With Big Leads

Rasmussen Reports (2/22, likely voters, 1/26 in parentheses):

Roxanne Conlin (D): 36 (31)

Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 53 (59)

Some other: 5 (4)

Not sure: 6 (5)

Bob Krause (D): 33 (26)

Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 55 (59)

Some other: 5 (7)

Not sure: 8 (8)

Tom Fiegen (D): 28 (25)

Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 56 (61)

Some other: 6 (4)

Not sure: 11 (10)

(MoE: ±4.5%)

Rasmussen Reports (2/18, likely voters, 9/22 in parentheses):

Chet Culver (D-inc): 37 (34)

Terry Branstad (R): 53 (54)

Some other: 6 (8)

Not sure: 4 (4)

Chet Culver (D-inc): 40 (39)

Bob van der Plaats (R): 46 (43)

Some other: 7 (9)

Not sure: 7 (9)

(MoE: ±4.5%)

Research 2000 for KCCI-TV (2/15-17, likely voters, 10/12-14 in parentheses):

Roxanne Conlin (D): 35 (39)

Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 56 (51)

Undecided: 9 (10)

(MoE: ±4%)

Research 2000 for KCCI-TV (2/15-17, likely voters, 10/12-14 in parentheses):

Chet Culver (D-inc): 38 (43)

Terry Branstad (R): 54 (48)

Undecided: 8 (9)

Chet Culver (D-inc): 41 (55)

Bob van der Plaats (R): 38 (33)

Undecided: 21 (12)

Chet Culver (D-inc): 44 (58)

Chris Rants (R): 33 (28)

Undecided: 23 (14)

Chet Culver (D-inc): 48 (NA)

Rod Roberts (R): 26 (NA)

Undecided: 26 (NA)

(MoE: ±4%)

Selzer for Des Moines Register (1/31-2/3, adults, 11/8-11 in parentheses):

Chet Culver (D-inc): 33 (33)

Terry Branstad (R): 53 (57)

Not sure: 9 (8)

Chet Culver (D-inc): 40 (37)

Bob van der Plaats (R): 43 (45)

Not sure: 12 (15)

Chet Culver (D-inc): 41 (42)

Chris Rants (R): 37 (35)

Not sure: 14 (18)

Chet Culver (D-inc): 41 (NA)

Rod Roberts (R): 36 (NA)

Not sure: 15 (NA)

(MoE: ±4%)

A whole lot of Iowa data has found its way across our desk over the last week, none of it terribly good for incumbent Governor Chet Culver or Senate challenger Roxanne Conlin. Or you can look at the bright side: the news is less bad if you look at the Rasmussen and Selzer trendlines. (Research 2000, not so much, but that trendline goes all the way back to October… and the earlier poll was commissioned for Daily Kos rather than KCCI, although that shouldn’t affect the toplines.)

In case you were hoping that somehow Chet Culver might wind up facing former Republican state legislative leader Chris Rants, though, don’t get your hopes up… Rants dropped out of the race last Friday, probably seeing no path out of the primary that’s dominated by Branstad and van der Plaats. As always, desmoinesdem is on the scene, with discussion already underway in two different diaries.

RaceTracker Wiki: IA-Sen | IA-Gov

IA-Gov, IA-Sen: Rasmussen’s new poll less bad than I expected

Republican pollster Scott Rasmussen released a new poll of the Iowa governor and U.S. Senate races today. Rasmussen surveyed 500 “likely Iowa voters” on February 18.

Given Rasmussen’s usual “house effect” favoring Republican candidates, I expected the numbers to be worse for Democrats than other recent Iowa polling. Instead, they were comparable to last week’s Research 2000 Iowa poll for KCCI-TV and the Selzer and Co. poll for the Des Moines Register, which was conducted three weeks ago.

Like the other pollsters, Rasmussen found Governor Chet Culver well behind Republican front-runner Terry Branstad. Like Research 2000, Rasmussen found Senator Chuck Grassley above 50 percent against Democratic challengers, but well below Grassley’s usual re-election numbers and even below the numbers Rasmussen found for Grassley in late January.

More details are after the jump.

Here are Rasmussen’s topline numbers for the governor’s race. Culver was at 41 percent strongly or somewhat approve and 57 percent strongly or somewhat disapprove. As we’ve seen in several polls, Culver’s approval numbers are a bit below President Barack Obama’s in Iowa. Among Rasmussen’s Iowa respondents, Obama was at 45 percent strongly or somewhat approve and 54 percent strongly or somewhat disapprove.

In Rasmussen’s head to head match-ups, Branstad led Culver 53 percent to 37 percent, very close to the 54-38 margin Research 2000 found and a bit better than the 53-33 lead Branstad had in the latest Selzer poll.

I’m confused about Rasmussen’s numbers for Culver against Bob Vander Plaats. The chart shows Vander Plaats leading 46-40, but Rasmussen’s summary of the results says “Culver trails by just four points” against Vander Plaats. I will update this post when I get some clarification about the correct numbers. Research 2000 had Culver leading Vander Plaats 41-38, while Selzer had Vander Plaats ahead 43-40.

Moving to the Senate race, Rasmussen’s latest poll found Grassley above 50 percent against each of his three Democratic challengers. He leads Roxanne Conlin 53 percent to 36 percent, Bob Krause 55 percent to 33 percent and Tom Fiegen 56 percent to 28 percent.

Rasmusssen’s new numbers are in line with last week’s Research 2000 poll showing Grassley ahead of Conlin by 56 percent to 35 percent. (Research 2000 did not ask about the other Democratic contenders.) Selzer’s latest survey for the Des Moines Register did not poll Grassley against the Democrats but found Grassley’s approval rating at 54 percent, an all-time low for him in that poll.

It’s worth noting that Rasmussen found larger leads for Grassley in the one-day Iowa poll conducted on January 26, 2010. In that survey, Grassley led Conlin 59-31, Krause 59-26 and Fiegen 61-25. Perhaps Grassley has slipped a bit since then, or maybe the Republican’s numbers in late January were a bit inflated because of the media coverage surrounding Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts special election. Or, maybe this is just statistical noise.

Either way, there’s a good chance that the Democratic nominee will make it much closer than any of Grassley’s previous re-election contests. Grassley has never been re-elected with less than 66 percent of the vote.

Share any thoughts about the gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races in this thread. Also, feel free to predict when we’ll see some public poll of the Republican primary for governor. Branstad has been in the race quite a while now, and I’d like to see how he lines up against his Republican rivals.

SSP Daily Digest: 1/29

AZ-Sen: CQ has an interesting tidbit about Rodney Glassman, the young Tucson city councilor who’s the top Democrat in the Senate race right now. The general sense has been that it would be good to have someone with some self-funding capacity to be able to jump in and make a race of it in case the bombastic J.D. Hayworth somehow takes out John McCain in the GOP primary… and it turns out that Glassman has been that guy all along. He’s been capping contributions to his campaign at $20 for now, but the Dems’ state chair says Glassman can step in with his own money in case things heat up.

IA-Sen: Rasmussen takes a pretty dim view of the odds for Roxanne Conlin (or any other Democrat) against Chuck Grassley in 2010. They see Conlin, a wealthy attorney last seen losing the 1982 gubernatorial race, losing to Grassley 59-31. The other less-known Dems, both veterans of the state legislature, fare only slightly worse: Bob Krause loses 59-26, and Tom Fiegen loses 61-25.

IL-Sen: One last component from Rasmussen’s poll of the Illinois primary fields dribbled in late yesterday: a look at the Republican Senate field. Like other pollsters, they find Rep. Mark Kirk way ahead of his nearest competitor in the GOP primary, real estate developer Patrick Hughes. Unlike others, though, they at least see Hughes in the double-digits, losing 53-18 (with 12 for “some other candidate”).

NC-Sen: Rasmussen also examines North Carolina, and while they find Republican incumbent Richard Burr with a significant lead, he’s not quite in the safety zone. Burr leads Democratic SoS Elaine Marshall 47-37, and he leads former state Sen. Cal Cunningham 50-34. Rasmussen also finds Burr’s knowns to be much, much higher than anyone else has found them: he has an approval of 56/32, with only 12% not sure (whereas most pollsters find his unknowns to be well into the 30s).

NY-Sen-B: After rumors of his renewed interest in challenging Kirsten Gillibrand in a Democratic Senate primary, Rep. Steve Israel sounds like he’s backing off. His chief of staff says “definitively that he’s not running,” although there’s no comment from Israel himself. Israel, however, did commission another poll in recent weeks to take the race’s temperature, so it’s clear his interest was briefly re-piqued.

AK-Gov: Former state House speaker John Harris had been a rumored candidate to oppose appointed Gov. Sean Parnell in the GOP gubernatorial primary, but has made clear that he won’t run and will run for re-election to the House instead. Another former speaker, Ralph Samuels, was also in the race, leaving Harris little room to grab whatever anti-Parnell vote might be out there. (A PPP poll finds the uncontroversial Parnell with a 58/19 approval, so it’d be an uphill run anyway.)

FL-Gov: Rasmussen has new numbers out for the Governor’s race in Florida, and they’re very similar to what Quinnipiac released yesterday. Republican AG Bill McCollum leads Democratic CFO Alex Sink 46-35. (Presumably, this means they’ll have Senate numbers shortly.)

MI-Gov: We’re getting strange signals out of the Virg Bernero camp. The Lansing mayor sent out an e-mail soliciting interns for his gubernatorial run (which would be a strange way of announcing your run, which he hasn’t done so far, although he does have an exploratory committee up). It was quickly followed up with word that Bernero hasn’t decided whether or not to run, and it should have said interns sought for his exploratory committee only.

NY-Gov: Here’s a sign of how unenthused the state GOP is with the idea of ex-Rep. Rick Lazio as their standard-bearer for the Governor’s race: they’re actually sitting down with Suffolk Co. Exec Steven Levy, who has recently expressed some interest in the race, to discuss the possibility of him running as a Republican. Levy, of course, is a Democrat, although a rather conservative one (particularly on immigration issues) and one who received a Republican cross-endorsement during his barely-contested 2007 re-election. The crux of the matter may be that Levy has a $4 million warchest available, while Lazio is sitting on $637K. State party chair Ed Cox offered this stirring endorsement of Lazio on Wednesday: “At the moment, he is the candidate.”

WI-Gov: One final Rasmussen poll to look at today: it’s the other half of their Wisconsin sample, the one that found 68-year-old ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson leading Russ Feingold in a hypothetical match. They find Republican ex-Rep. Mark Neumann leading Democratic Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett 42-38, while Milwaukee Co. Exec Scott Walker leads Barrett 48-38 (again, a much more Republican-favorable view of the race than other pollsters have seen it).

AR-01: Dems won’t be getting their most-desired candidate to succeed Marion Berry in the 1st: AG Dustin McDaniel already announced that he won’t run. Possible Dem candidates sniffing out the race, though, including state Rep. Keith Ingram, state Sen. Robert Thompson, and former state party chair Jason Willett. CQ also mentions former state Rep. Chris Thyer, former state Sen. Tim Woolridge, and Berry’s CoS, Chad Causey.

AR-02: In the 2nd, Democratic state House speaker Robbie Wills seems to be getting into the race to succeed Vic Snyder. State Sen. Shane Broadway has also expressed interest, but says that he’ll head for the Lt. Governor race if LG Bill Halter gets into the field in the 2nd. State Public Service Commissioner Paul Suskie is already putting campaign infrastructure into place, and a potential wild card people are eyeing is Little Rock’s mayor, Mark Stodola.

CA-19: Smackdown in the Central Valley! Retiring Republican Rep. George Radanovich lashed out at CA-11 ex-Rep. Richard Pombo, seeking to replace him, saying that he should have “run in his own district.” Radanovich backs state Sen. Jeff Denham in the GOP primary, and was seeking to quash Pombo claims that Radanovich wouldn’t have endorsed Denham had he known Pombo was going to run. In other news, Rep. Tom McClintock at some point endorsed Pombo, finally making it clear that McClintock, used to running for something new every two years, wasn’t going to reflexively abandon his district and run in the 19th instead.

GA-04: A primary is the only way to dislodge Rep. Hank Johnson in this safely blue district, and it looks like Johnson is poised to keep his seat even though he’s drawn several prominent opponents (at least some of whom would be coming at him from the right), former DeKalb Co. CEO Vernon Jones and DeKalb Co. Commissioners Connie Stokes and Lee May. Johnson has an internal poll from Lake Associates out showing him with 47% of the vote, leading Jones at 19, Stokes at 12, and May at 5.

KY-06: Just days after attorney Andy Barr was named to the bottom tier of the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program, another Republican has jumped into the fray to take on Rep. Ben Chandler in this Republican-leaning district. Mike Templeman retired last year as CEO of Energy Coal Resources, and is touting his business experience.

NH-02: Ex-Rep. Charlie Bass is touting an internal poll that has him in commanding position, at least as far as the GOP primary is concerned. He leads the 2008 Republican candidate, talk radio host Jennifer Horn, by a 42-19 margin (with 4 for state Rep. Bob Giuda). No numbers for the general election in this Dem-leaning district, however.

NY-01: Rep. Tim Bishop is pushing back against, well, everything: he said, as far as retirement rumors go, he’s “sure as hell” not going to back down from a fight now. He also announced strong fundraising (a $378K quarter) in the face of wealthy opposition, Randy Altschuler and George Demos. (There are also rumors that Chris Cox, the grandson of Richard Nixon and son of new state GOP chair Ed Cox, may get into the race.) Bishop’s camp also alluded to (although didn’t specifically release) an internal poll showing him over the 50% mark against his Republican opponents, in contrast to other recent polls.

PA-03: I wouldn’t have expected freshman Kathy Dahlkemper’s 3rd to be only 4th or 5th among Pennsylvania Democratic seats in terms of vulnerability this year, but them’s the breaks. The GOP hasn’t found a top-tier recruit here yet, but another Republican got into the race: Mike Kelly, a car dealer from the suburban Pittsburgh part of the district. It sounds like he’ll be able to partly fund his own way, which will help him compete against fellow businessman Paul Huber.

PA-10: Former US Attorney Tom Marino finally announced his long-rumored bid against Rep. Chris Carney this week. While Marino seems imposing on paper, there are a number of problems here for him: for starters, Carney quickly used the December efforts of GOPers to recruit him to party-switch to boost his own bipartisan bona fides. Marino also faces questions over his relationship with Louis DeNaples, a developer who was the target of probes over links to organized crime, and particularly a casino license granted to him (where Marino was a reference on DeNaples’ gaming application). And a number of state legislators – at least in the far western part of the district where Malcolm Derk is from – are lining up behind Derk instead of Marino in the GOP primary. With chiropractor David Madeira, who’s been reaching out to the teabaggers, also in the race, even the primary won’t be an easy ride for Marino.

PA-15: One more internal poll, this one not looking so good for Democrats. Republican Rep. Charlie Dent, in his first competitive race, well, ever, against Bethlehem mayor John Callahan, has a big edge in his own poll conducted by the Tarrance Group. The poll gives Dent a 53-27 lead, with 8 going to teabagging independent Jack Towne. The moderate Dent pulls in one-quarter of all Democratic voters.

TN-08: He’s in like Flinn. George Flinn, that is: the official entry of the Shelby Co. Commissioner, who’s also a radiologist and radio station owner in his spare time, expanded the Republican field in the 8th. With two money-bags candidates already in the picture, physician Ron Kirkland and most prominently farmer Stephen Fincher, Republicans look poised to bleed each other badly in an expensive primary while state Sen. Roy Herron looks to have the Democratic field mostly to himself in this open seat race.

VA-05: Another primary that’s getting out of control for the GOP is the one in the 5th, where there’s a backlog of die-hards each claiming to be the “true conservative” as opposed to establishment fave state Sen. Robert Hurt. Real estate investor Lawrence Verga seems to have had the most success at gaining the attention of the teabaggers (although Verga‘s spotty voting record can’t help his image much), but now rival real estate developer Jim McKelvey just slammed down half a million dollars on the table to up the ante. Even more delicious in terms of cat fud: McKelvey is also making threats that he’ll run as an independent if things don’t go his way in the primary. With right-winger Bradley Rees already running as a Tea Party-powered indie, there could be enough fracturing on the right to let vulnerable Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello have a shot at survival.

VA-09: Here’s a seat that would have been a bear to defend in the event of a retirement, but where we got the final word that the incumbent is staying put. Rep. Rick Boucher confirmed he’ll go for a 15th term in the Fightin’ 9th in southwestern Virginia. He’s still not out of the woods, as Republican state House majority leader Morgan Griffith may get in the race, although for now Boucher doesn’t have an opponent.

WA-03: This caught me, and seemingly a lot of other people, by surprise: Gov. Chris Gregoire weighed into the Democratic primary in the 3rd with an endorsement, and she bypassed the two sitting state legislators in the field to go for ex-state Rep. Denny Heck, suggesting that rumors that he’s got a lot of behind-the-scenes establishment support are quite true. Heck, who subsequently founded a public affairs cable channel and did a lot of successful for-profit investing as well, can spend a lot of his own money on the race, which is probably why he’s getting the establishment backing despite having been out of office for decades.

WV-01: After a rather protracted four-year investigation, the Justice Dept. ended its investigation of Rep. Alan Mollohan over earmark steering, removing the ethical cloud from over his head. Mollohan had been on retirement watch lists, in the face of several decent Republican challengers, but he recently filed for re-election and now his opponents have less ammo to use against him.

OH-SoS: Progressives have been dismayed that socially conservative state Rep. Jennifer Garrison is the only Democratic option in the Secretary of State primary anymore, but that sounds like it’s about to change. Franklin Co. Clerk of Courts (and former Columbus city councilor) Maryellen O’Shaugnessy is rumored to be about to enter the race, and it also sounds like she’ll have the backing of the state party’s power brokers, starting at the top with Gov. Ted Strickland (who can’t afford to have progressives stay home in 2010, as he needs them to save his own bacon in what promises to be a tight gubernatorial race).

Census: New York state Senate Democrats are proposing changes in the way that prison inmates are counted. They’d like for them to be considered residents of the district where their last known address was, not where they’re currently incarcerated. It’s actually a very important issue, considering that there are more than 58,000 state prisoners in New York, most of whom are from cities but are currently in rural Upstate, and it could tip the balance significantly in redistricting the state Senate. In other Census news, Robert Groves talked extensively to Pew about increasing participation, tracking turnout, and overcoming language barriers.

Humor: Finally, here’s a cartoon that SSP fans are uniquely positioned to enjoy.

IA-Sen: Conlin (D) releases fundraising numbers (UPDATE: new Rasmussen poll)

Roxanne Conlin’s campaign for U.S. Senate released partial fundraising numbers yesterday, and they are impressive:

Total cash raised (Nov. 2 – Dec. 31):


Cash on hand:


Total individual donors:  1,649 (1,395 Iowans/85% Iowans)

Online supporters signed up:  Over 31,000

Donations $100 and under: 1,332

Donations $250 and under: 1,433

All of Conlin’s campaign contributions came from individual supporters, because she has pledged not to accept contributions from federal lobbyists or PACs. (I wouldn’t have advised her to take that stance, because there are PACs and lobbyists fighting for good things as well as those working against the public interest.) In any event, she has shown that she can raise enough money to staff and run a statewide campaign. Conlin is about a third of the way through a 99-county tour she began earlier this month.

I haven’t seen year-end fundraising numbers from Senator Chuck Grassley yet. At the end of the third quarter of 2009, he had more than $4.4 million cash on hand, so clearly he will still be way ahead in the money race. During the third quarter, when Grassley played a high-profile role in health care reform negotiations, he raised $864,622 total, of which $364,295 came from political action committees.

In other words, Conlin raised more from individual donors in two months than Grassley raised from individuals during the third quarter. That’s a strong pace, and it suggests a lot of Iowans are motivated to take the fight to Grassley. Conlin has already raised nearly five times as much as Democrat Art Small spent during his entire 2004 campaign against Iowa’s senior senator.

I don’t have new fundraising numbers from the other Democrats running against Grassley. Bob Krause raised $7,430 during the third quarter, ending with $3,493 on hand. Tom Fiegen raised $3,781 during the third quarter, ending with $519 on hand. I like many of the statements I’ve heard from Krause and Fiegen, but they have yet to show that they will be able to run a statewide campaign, and therefore appear to be extreme underdogs leading up to the Democratic primary in June. Neither Krause nor Fiegen seems likely to drop out of this race, however. On the contrary, Fiegen called on Conlin to quit the race last month, saying Republican attacks on her would divert attention from Grassley and the “needs of working families.” Yesterday Krause criticized one of Conlin’s tax credit proposals.

Grassley will be very tough to beat. His approval rating has fallen but is still above 50 percent, and he has set a goal of raising $9 million for this race. Even if Democrats don’t manage to defeat Grassley, giving him a spirited challenge is well worth the effort. Driving up turnout among Democrats whom Grassley has alienated can only help our candidates down-ticket.

UPDATE: Rasmussen conducted a one-day poll of this race on January 26. Grassley leads Conlin 59 to 31, Krause 59 to 26 and Fiegen 61 to 25 (margin of error 4.5 percent).

IA-Sen/IA-Gov: Grassley & Culver Are Both Vulnerable

Research 2000 for Daily Kos (10/12-14, likely voters, no trendlines):

Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 51

Christie Vilsack (D): 40

Undecided: 11

Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 51

Roxanne Conlin (D): 39

Undecided: 10

Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 52

Bob Krause (D): 35

Undecided: 13

Chuck Grassley (R-inc): 54

Tom Fiegen (D): 31

Undecided: 15

(MoE: ±4%)

This is the first poll to test Chuck Grassley against a couple of higher-profile names: Christie Vilsack, the wife of former governor (and current Ag. Sec’y) Tom Vilsack, and Roxanne Conlin, former head of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and 1982 Democratic nominee for governor (she lost 53-47 to none other than Terry Bradstad – we’ll visit with him below). Both Vilsack and Conlin’s names have been tossed around as possible candidates recently, with Conlin refusing to rule out a run and Vilsack openly suggesting she might join the race.

The best news about this poll, though, is that Grassley seems to have a cap of about 51-52% against a field which has room to grow. He does better against state Sen. Tom Fiegen, but only because half the state has no opinion of the latter. All the other three Dem names are in a much closer range in terms of favorables – former state Rep. and longtime public official Bob Krause is actually a bit better-known than Vilsack, and Conlin, it turns out, has the best nums with 44-29 favorables. (Also recall that last December, Grassley only led Tom Vilsack by 48-44 in another R2K poll.)

Hopefully Conlin or Vilsack will get in. Either woman would bring considerable resources to bear – Conlin, thanks to her high profile and network of wealthy lawyers, and Vilsack, due to her strong brand name and powerful political connections. SSP currently pegs this as a “Race to Watch,” but if we get a top-tier challenger, that rating might soon change. (Discussion is also underfoot in this diary.)

Chet Culver (D-inc): 43

Terry Brandstad (R): 48

Undecided: 9

Chet Culver (D-inc): 55

Bob Vander Plaats (R): 33

Undecided: 12

Chet Culver (D-inc): 58

Chris Rants (R): 28

Undecided: 14

(MoE: ±4%)

How frustrating – Gov. Chet Culver utterly swamps a couple of unknown candidates, but along comes former four-term Gov. Terry Branstad showing the incumbent in a very vulnerable position. Branstad is still in “exploratory phase” – he just resigned as president of Des Moines University on Friday, but hasn’t officially announced a run yet. Lingering unhappiness over events from his long tenure, as well as a possible right-wing vs. establishment split, could pose some roadblocks for Branstad. But right now, Culver ought to be very concerned.

SSP currently rates this race a Tossup. (More on this poll in this diary.)

IA-Sen: New ad against Grassley, and maybe new challenger

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America have produced a new television commercial, which asks which side Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is on:

Click here to donate to help keep this ad on the air in Iowa and Washington, DC.

Speaking of which side Grassley’s on, Monday’s Des Moines Register reports on his massive campaign contributions from health industry interest groups. Thomas Beaumont’s story was based on numbers compiled by Maplight.org.

Meanwhile, Representative Bruce Braley confirmed on Friday that he is running for re-election in Iowa’s first Congressional district (PVI D+5). I consider him likely to run for U.S. Senate when either Grassley or Tom Harkin retires. (Harkin comes up for re-election in 2014.)

Rumors persist that a prominent Democrat will join Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen in challenging Grassley next year. Some people have been talking about Barry Griswell, the retired CEO of the Principal Financial Group. It was news to me that Griswell is even a Democrat; he has donated to politicians from both parties in the past. Al Swearengen of The Iowa Republican blog speculates that Fred Hubbell is the mystery candidate. Hubbell currently chairs the Iowa Power Fund Board, to which Governor Chet Culver appointed him. From his official bio:

Fred S. Hubbell was a member of the Executive Board and Chairman of Insurance and Asset Management Americas for ING Group. Mr. Hubbell retired from ING Group’s Executive Board effective April 25, 2006. Mr. Hubbell was formerly Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Equitable of Iowa Companies, an insurance holding company, serving in his position as Chairman from May 1993 to October 1997, and as President and Chief Executive Officer from May 1989 to October 1997.

Like Griswell, Hubbell could be a self-funding candidate, but unlike Griswell, he has a consistent history of supporting Democrats. Charlotte Hubbell, Fred Hubbell’s wife, serves on the state’s Environmental Protection Commission.

UPDATE: Hubbell told Iowa Independent he’s not interested in running against Grassley.

SSP Daily Digest: 8/12

AR-Sen (pdf): Here is a very weird set of numbers out of Arkansas, courtesy of a poll from somebody called Talk Business Quarterly. Blanche Lincoln has a 49% job approval rating, with 40% disapproval — no surprises, about what I’d expect. But on the re-elect question, the results are 27/60! (There’s some polling sleight of hand going on here, though; the question is phrased “would you vote to re-elect Blanche Lincoln as your U.S. Senator no matter who ran against her?” Well, I dunno… is Jesus going to run against her?) Also, in Arkansas, Republican wealthy guy/gaffe-prone crackpot Curtis Coleman has apparently gotten his shots and visa and can now go safely campaign in southeast Arkansas, as he officially launched his campaign today.

CT-Sen: Chris Dodd underwent successful surgery for prostate cancer yesterday and is resting comfortably. He’ll be back to full activity in a few weeks, probably just in time for the end of recess.

IA-Sen: Democrats nailed down a candidate to go against Chuck Grassley, although he’ll be hard-pressed to make a dent in the well-funded and inexplicably well-liked Grassley. Tom Fiegen, a former state Senator and bankruptcy attorney, will announce his candidacy on Friday. Another Dem, Iowa Democratic Veterans Caucus chair Bob Krause, is already exploring the race.

NV-Sen: Here’s a telling little tidbit from an interview with Rep. Dean Heller, suggesting that he may have just as much of a non-aggression pact with Harry Reid as does John Ensign (or else he just lives in perpetual fear of Reid). When asked if it was best for Nevada if Reid were defeated, Heller’s response was a 14-second pause, followed by “Um. My position is that I’m going to support the Republican candidate. If we have a viable Republican candidate, that is going to be my position. So I think that speaks for itself.”

NH-Sen: Kelly Ayotte made her public debut yesterday (although she maintains she’s not a candidate yet, despite having filed her candidacy papers), and shed a little more light on her hitherto-unknown positions on, well, everything. She seems to be running on mostly a law-and-order image, but she did reveal that she’s anti-abortion rights and anti-gay marriage.

NY-Sen-B: With Carolyn Maloney now out of the picture, Bronx-based Rep. Eliot Engel endorsed Kirsten Gillibrand today for re-election. That brings to 12 (out of 26) Dem members of the New York House delegation who’ve endorsed her.

HI-Gov: Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who’s running for Hawaii governor, ran into a sticky wicket: he won’t be able to transfer the $900K in his federal fund to his state fund, according to Hawaii’s Campaign Spending Commission. This puts him behind, in the fundraising game, both Republican candidate Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona and possible Dem primary opponent Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann, although he’s well-connected and should be able to catch up with some effort.

NJ-Gov: In a revelation that should surprise no one, it turns out that Karl Rove discussed with Chris Christie the possibility of running for New Jersey Governor while Christie was serving in the ostensibly non-partisan position of U.S. Attorney.

SC-Gov: Democrats may be sensing an opening in the South Carolina governor’s race after l’affaire Sanford, as yet another Dem jumped into the scrum: Dwight Drake, an attorney and lobbyist who hasn’t been elected before but is a prominent behind-the-scenes Democrat in Columbia.

UT-Gov: Gary Herbert was sworn in as Utah’s Governor yesterday, replacing new Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. Although Herbert is universally viewed as conservative, he rankled some conservatives by throwing a bone to the state party’s moderate wing by picking state Sen. Greg Bell to be Lt. Governor. He now has nine months to prepare for the GOP nominating convention for the 2010 special election, where possible candidates he may face include state Senators John Valentine and Steve Urquhart, state House speaker David Clark, and law professor Kirk Jowers. With Rep. Jim Matheson declining a run, the Dems’ next best bet is Salt Lake County mayor Peter Corroon.

VA-Gov: Rasmussen takes its monthly look at the Virginia Governor’s race. Republican Bob McDonnell leads Democrat Creigh Deeds, 49-41, when leaners are pushed; the 8-point gap mirrors the R2K poll from last week, but is a drop from the 3-point gap in the July Rasmussen poll. Voters still like both of them; McDonnell’s favorables are 53/30, while Deeds’ are 48/39.

GA-02: Rep. Sanford Bishop has an honest-to-gosh state Rep. opposing him this time, instead of the usual token Republican opposition: Mike Keown. Bishop should face little difficulty in this black-majority district he’s held since 1992, though. (H/t TheUnknown285.)

NY-01: Speaking of Bishops, Rep. Tim Bishop also drew a bigger challenger than he’s used to, in the form of wealthy businessman Randy Altschuler, whom the NRCC had been trying to lure into the race. It remains to be seen if Altschuler, who’s never run for office before, has any political chops; the NRCC may have been loudly touting him more for his fundraising abilities, as he was a big McCain bundler and can open up his own wallet as well if need be. At any rate, it at least puts this D+0 district onto the map for 2010.

NY-St. Sen.: It’s amazing what being in the majority can do for you: New York State Senate Democrats are now way in the lead in the fundraising, compared with the once-dominant Republicans. Dems have raised $6.9 million so far this year, compared with $2.5 million for the GOP, driven largely by shifts by unions who previously felt the need to play ball with the Republicans in order to avoid getting shut out of the discussion. The GOP still retains a cash-on-hand edge, though.