The much ballyhooed Romney post-debate surge apparently doesn’t stop with the top of the GOP ticket.
Eastern Iowa congressional challenger Ben Lange says he’s seen an uptick in support on the campaign trail, as well as volunteer numbers and financial contributions, since Republican Mitt Romney outperformed President Obama in the first of three presidential debates earlier this month.
“We can just see in the sheer number of volunteers that have showed up from three weeks ago, after that first debate until this point in time,” the Independence attorney told more than 2,000 people waiting to hear from Romney at an airport rally in Cedar Rapids Wednesday. “We are thriving at this right now.”
His campaign says it has the poll numbers to back up the candidate’s claim.
The Lange campaign shared internal polling of 390 likely voters – slightly more Democrats than Republicans -- Thursday, showing him leading 1st District Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley, 46.9 percent to 45.4 percent, heading into the final days of the campaign. That makes the race closer than in 2010, when Braley defeated Lange by 1.95 percentage points.
Given the poll’s 5.1 percent margin of error, the race is essentially tied.
Lange’s campaign should feel “very encouraged” by the results, according to pollster Steve Grubbs, whose Victory Enterprises political survey and research firm has conducted more than one thousand political surveys over the past 14 years.
“We were surprised that Braley didn't have a slight lead, but again, it's a margin of error race,” Grubbs said. “It could go either way over the next 10 days.”
That doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm in the Lange camp.
“We know if things continue on this path, we’ll win this,” Lange said at the Romney rally. “We’ve just got to keep plugging along.”
Regardless of the margin of error, Grubs said the takeaway from the poll is that the Lange-Braley race is in play “as it seems to be tracking closely with the strength of Romney’s rise in the polls.”
The Braley camp sees the poll – and the campaign --differently.
“We feel great about where our campaign stands right now heading into the final stretch,” Braley campaign manager Jeff Giertz said. “We’ve received a tremendous response from all corners of Eastern Iowa.
“We’ve laid out a clear choice for voters and I think that voters will respond to that choice,” he said.
If there has been a surge, Giertz said, it’s been among Democrats encouraged by the president’s performance in the last two debates and fearful of the prospect of Romney and Lange victories.
“All I know is what I see and what I see is increasing excitement and participation among Democrats,” he said. “I sense a lot of excitement. The last two debates have been a big boost for democrats.”
He went on to say Iowans are concerned with prospects of a Romney presidency “and, frankly, it extends into our race as well.”
“As people get more information about Ben Lange’s plans, I think they’ll see that if Mitt Romney and Ben Lange end up in office it will be a blow to the middle-class,” Giertz said.
Lange campaign adviser Cody Brown said the polling provides empirical evidence of a Republican surge in Eastern Iowa that could shake-up races from the top-of-the-ticket to the bottom.
“If the firewall the Obama campaign hoped to build in Eastern Iowa is vanishing, that could spell trouble for the president and have an impact on down ballot races – congressional and legislative,” Brown said.
Referring to Iowa’s battleground status in the presidential race, Brown speculated that if Romney carries Iowa, “that could mean the election.”Giertz said he doubts Iowans will abandon the president and Braley.