Although he starts with lower name recognition than four rivals for the nomination, a poll released Monday shows Cedar Rapids Democrat Dave O’Brien’s support jumps significantly when voters learn about his background and his vision for Iowa’s U.S. House 1st District.
The poll of 400 likely 1st District Democratic primary voters found, to no surprise, that 25-year state lawmaker Rep. Pat Murphy of Dubuque has 50 percent name recognition across the 20-county district. David Binder Research also found Murphy with more support than the others, but not enough at this point to meet the 35 percent threshold state law requires for a primary election victory.
The data also shows that Murphy’s race-leading 30 percent support falls to 27 percent when voters are told about the O’Brien and the other candidates.
That’s good news for O’Brien because the poll found his support increases to 26 percent when voters hear about his background and experience, spokesman Sam Roecker said.
“That’s really opening the door for him to win the nomination,” he said.
Another finding by Binder was that three women running for the nomination, Swati Dandekar, Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic and Monica Vernon, are splitting a bloc of voters — not necessarily female voters, but a group of like-minded voters.
A February poll for the Murphy campaign found his lead over the others grew when voters were read positive messages about them. However, O’Brien wasn’t included in that comparison.
Given the results of the Binder poll, that makes Roecker confident O’Brien is “exactly where he needs to be in this race” 11 weeks out from the June 3 primary.
“We have to break through and make sure people are exposed to his message because when they hear from Dave and about his background, generally, that’s something they respond to and think he’s the sort of person who they want representing them in Congress,” Roecker said.
O’Brien’s focus has been on jobs and the economy “and how to use progressive labor policies to help families break into middle class or, at least, lift them out of poverty by raising minimum wage,” Roecker said.
When people learn about O’Brien’s experience working in the Department of Labor during the Clinton administration and his work as a civil rights attorney, “that’s something they respond to and think he’s the sort of person who they want representing them in Congress,” Roecker said.
Spokespersons for other 1st District campaigns don’t necessarily disagree with the poll, but say they’re finding much the same to be true about their candidates.
Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Vernon is connecting with voters because as a “working mom who has raised three daughters, and built and run her own small business for 26 years … she understands their concerns and aspirations,” campaign manager Brenda Kole said.
First District Democrats are responding to Kajtazovic’s “call to widen the path for the middle class and her ability to relate to regular Iowans,” according to spokeswoman Majda Sarkic.
“We can't speak to any other candidate's polls,” Murphy campaign manager Aaron Bly said, but “when voters hear more from Pat, that support grows because he has the best record and vision for the district.”
DBR conducted 400 live telephone interviews with likely Democratic primary voters between Feb. 27 and March 2. They were randomly selected with interview apportioned geographically based on past voter turnout. The expected margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percent.