Branstad approval rating, lead over Hatch both narrow

James Q. Lynch
Published: March 12 2014 | 5:39 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:29 am in

In his quest for an unprecedented sixth term, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is hoping that history repeats itself.

So does his challenger.

Different history and different results, however.

Branstad appears to be on track for a historic fifth re-election based on a Quinnipiac University Poll released this morning. It found Iowans approve of the job the Republican Branstad is doing by a 55 percent to 35 percent margin.

Quinnipiac also found in its poll of 1,411 registered voters done March 5-10, that Branstad leads his presumptive Democratic challenger, Sen. Jack Hatch of Des Moines, 46 to 35 percent.

“Gov. Branstad is well-positioned to win a sixth term,” said Tim Albrecht, a former aide to Branstad – both in the governor’s office and on the campaign trail – and now director of Redwave Digital, a marketing firm.

“Up and down this poll, Gov. Branstad has commanding numbers when it comes to leadership, honesty and his handling of the economy,” Albrecht said. “There is very little worry in this poll, the least among them being Jack Hatch.”

Branstad may have personal electoral history on his side – he’s never lost an election, but the Hatch campaign is looking at the history of incumbents who poll below 50 percent.

“Branstad is a five-term, 20-year incumbent who should be polling much stronger than 50 percent,” Hatch campaign manager Grant Woodard said. Branstad’s inability to break the 50 percent threshold is “significant and newsworthy.”

Four years ago, Gov. Chet Culver’s difficulty hitting 50 percent was widely seen as a sign of the first-term Democrat’s weakness against Branstad.

“Suspicions about the weakness of the incumbent proved accurate in 2010, and 2014 is demonstrating a similar pattern,” Woodard said.

He sees a silver lining in the Quinnipiac numbers because although three in four voters don’t even know enough about the 22-year lawmaker to have an opinion of him, Branstad’s lead over Hatch is smaller than in December when Quinnipiac last polled Iowans.

“Branstad is losing ground and Jack Hatch gaining momentum,” Woodard said. The Quinnipiac poll “shows an electorate dissatisfied with a longtime status-quo governor and open to embracing new leadership from Hatch.”

Most telling, according to Woodard, is the fact Branstad consistently has come in under 50 percent in the head-to-head match up in the Quinnipiac poll as well as two other recent polls.

A Public Policy Polling Poll in late February showed Branstad ahead 48 to 36 percent and the Iowa Poll earlier this month showed the race at 44 to 29 percent for Branstad.

Hatch “can take solace in Branstad not crossing the magic 50 percent threshold in the horse race,” according to Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

On the downside for Hatch, “the governor does much better than that when voters are asked if he is a strong leader, if he is honest and if he understands the problems of average folks.”

Among the poll’s findings:

• Branstad leads 86 to 4 percent among Republicans and 46 to 28 percent among independent voters

• Hatch takes Democrats 77 to 10 percent

• Branstad also leads 50 to 31 percent among men

• Women go 43 percent Republican and 39 percent Democrat

• Voters approve 54 to 35 percent of the way Branstad is handling the state economy and give him good character marks, saying:

• 61 – 29 percent that he is honest and trustworthy

• 68 – 25 percent that he has strong leadership

• 53 – 39 percent that he cares about their needs and problems.

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