Election Night 2010 In Iowa
Nov 2, 2010
By Steffen Schmidt
By Steffen Schmidt
The 2010 election is like no election we’ve seen in modern American politics. It will cost roughly 4 billion dollars, which is an all time record!
It’s the first race where unlimited spending and no transparency in who’s giving the money have swamped the political arena. The Supreme Court case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission in 2010), held that corporate funding of independent political advertising in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment. It gave corporations (including such entities as labor unions) “personhood” and freedom of political speech.
In Iowa, as the New York Times reported on Oct. 26 in an editorial ”Secret Money in Iowa,” “Bruce Braley, a Democrat from northeastern Iowa, has been a popular two-term congressman and seemed likely to have an easy re-election until the huge cash mudslide of 2010.”
The Braley campaign is only the most visible Iowa race where massive outside money is swamping the process and flooding the airwaves with attack ads never seen before in this intensity, crudeness, and volume.
We will see on election night what results this new and alarming political environment produces. Let me share with you some of the latest projections and predictions on the outcome of Iowa races.
In Iowa’s 5th District incumbent Republican Steven King is ahead with approximately 65.1% to Matthew Campbell’s 32.3%. More informative is the projection that King has a 99.9% chance of winning this race. All these numbers (see below) are based on 100,000 simulations of the FiveThirtyEight project started by Nate Silver in March of 2008. This project (results can be seen in his New York Times blog) does sophisticated electoral forecasts. Prior to founding FiveThirtyEight, Silver was Managing Partner at Baseball Prospectus.
In the 4th District Tom Latham Republican incumbent vs. Bill Maske the numbers show Latham winning by 63.2% to Maske’s 34.2%. Latham has a 99.8% chance of winning.
Incumbent Democrat Leonard Boswell is in an ever-tightening race against Republican Brad Zaun. In February Boswell was ahead by 53.9%. That lead tightened in July and August to Boswell 49.3% and 48.3 for Zaun. In September Zaun overtook Boswell for a 50.8% lead to Boswell 47.1. Just one week before the election 49.3% for Boswell and 48.4 for Zaun. When we look at the probability of winning Boswell has a minimal and very weak 55.0% to Zaun’s 45.0%. This race will be a stay up late and bite nails contest. It has also been one of the dirtiest mudslinging campaigns I have seen in my forty years of analyzing Iowa politics.
The 2nd District race pits Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack (truth in advertising a former student of mine) against Mariannette Miller-Meeks the Republican challenger. This is another tight race with Loebsack at 52.7% and Miller-Meeks 44.3% and while a recent poll showed Loebsack in trouble, the long trends and deeper data analysis give him an 89.2% of winning.
Benjamin Lange GOP Challenger against Bruce Braley, a Democrat incumbent (and also a former student of mine at Iowa State). This race has seen a mountain of money thrown at Braley and therefore has tightened from a 60% lead by Braley to 40% for Lange in January to a tightening 56.2% for Braley and 41.4% for Lange with Braley still having a large probability of victory (96.4%). I will be watching this one carefully because I think the massive money thrown at Braley in the final weeks may undermine the validity of the probability of a winning percentage.
In the U.S. Senate race Chuck Grassley has a 99.8% chance of winning and Roxanne Conlin has actually lost ground since June with FiveThirtyEight predicting only a 0.2% chance of victory on election night. While this is a year of “anti incumbency” mood, Grassley has been virtually unaffected by that and Conlin has run an incompetent, themeless, unfocused campaign.
The governor’s race between incumbent Chet Culver and challenger, former four-term governor Terry Branstad has been virtually flat from the moment Branstad was nominated. It stands at Branstad 55.3% vs. Culver 41.6% and Branstad now has a 97.9% chance of winning. I had estimated a tightening as election night approached but Culver managed to damage the fundamentals of his governorship over the past four years with in-fighting, constant staff changes, very poor leadership (not personally appearing quickly at disasters like floods, tornados, and winter storms) as well as a rash of administrative scandals that were resolved but without visible and decisive leadership. Budget cuts and layoffs also angered many voters including Democrats so that a highly improved and-of-campaign message management and good performance by Culver in at least one debate were probably not enough to overcome the metastasized image that grew up around him.
November 2, 2010 (TONIGHT) promises to be an exciting election night and I expect turnout to be very high as the intensity of this election peaks.
Steffen Schmidt is University Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University and Chief Political Correspondent of InsiderIowa.com.