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2014 Races: From Lopsided to Razor Thin

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With Election Day on Tuesday, IPR’s Clay Masters spoke with Associated Press political reporter Catherine Lucey, to discuss what to expect.


Masters: Catherine, the national dialog seems to expect gains for Republicans in the U.S. Senate.  And one Senate race that could determine this is, right here in Iowa—the race between Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley, and Republican state Senator Joni Ernst.

Lucey: This race is razor thin, Clay, and both candidates are doing everything they can to get out of the vote, between now and Tuesday. Touring the state, they are both bringing in big-name surrogates, holding rallies. They are really trying to leave no vote hanging out there if they can help it.

Masters: Now one of the big stories this year is just been how much Republicans are getting out the vote, stressing early voting, knocking more doors. In a midterm it’s common for more Republicans to do better. Does this give them an advantage?

Lucey: This has been a tricky thing to figure out, honestly. The Republicans certainly have made a lot more effort this year to get people to vote early, which is something they have not done in past years. They say this is evidence that they are in a very strong position going into Election Day. 

Now Democrats, who have been doing early voting programs for many more cycles in a series way, they say that they are running a more sophisticated effort and that they are doing a better job of getting people who might not otherwise vote in a midterm to come out, as well as independents to come out. So, it’s really doing to be hard to tell honestly, until we see the election results.

Masters: And one thing that’s been keeping you busy is chasing many of these surrogates around the state. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, seen to be a potential 2016 presidential candidate, former presidential candidate (Sen.) John McCain, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, they’ve all been here. What are these surrogates doing for the campaigns and the parties?

Lucey: Sure, I mean at this point, it’s really not who’s coming to Iowa, but who hasn’t come to Iowa? On both sides of the aisle. You know, these visits do a lot of things. They help with fundraising, they help boost enthusiasm for these races, they help get the base excited, they help get people excited to do volunteer events.

Certainly for the folks who are looking to run in, potentially to run for president in 2016, you know that they, they enjoy being in Iowa too, because Iowa is an early voting state.  I mean Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, is here again this week doing an event for Gov. Terry Branstad, who certainly doesn’t need another event. He’s cruising to victory. But Christie wants to be helpful, and he may run for president. 

Masters: Now you bring up the governor’s race. It’s a bit lopsided. The Democratic candidate, Des Moines state Sen. Jack Hatch, wasn’t even running ads there for a while. How does Iowa have such a statewide race, that’s so competitive like the Senate race, and then have a governor’s race that’s not. Is that just the power of incumbency in the state?

Lucey: It’s interesting isn’t? I mean, I think that’s probably a big part of it. Gov. Branstad is a five-term governor, he’s running for a sixth term. He’s, he’s quite popular, he’s very well-funded, and like most places, (Iowa) greatly favors incumbents. And Jack Hatch came in with a deficit. He didn’t have a good statewide name I.D.  He didn’t have the same kind of fundraising. And he really just hasn’t caught on.

In contrast, the Senate race, it’s the first time there’s been an open Senate seat in Iowa in decades. And given how the efforts nationally by Republicans to take back the Senate, and Democrats trying to hold the Senate, I think it was always clear that this was going to be a hyper-competitive race.

Masters: And speaking of open seats, two of the state’s four Congressional seats are open. And Republicans could pick up gains here too, theoretically.

Lucey: Theoretically yes.  I mean right now the four member House delegation from Iowa is evenly split.  You have two seats open. In the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Des Moines, it’s very evenly divided between the parties. It’s currently hard to say who’s going to win there. 

In the 1st Congressional District, which is still held by Congressman Braley who’s running for Senate, Democrats definitely have a registration advantage there. So it’s seen as a seat that they should be able to hold. But Republicans have been pumping a ton of money and surrogates, and effort into that seat. So that suggests to me that they see a path to victory.

Masters: Catherine Lucey is a political reporter for the Associated Press. Catherine, thank you.

Lucey: Great to be here.  

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.
Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.