Government

Campaign says Reynolds in good shape despite slide in approval rating

Drop attributed to increased criticism from Democrats

Gov. Kim Reynolds greets Ray Hendrickson of Iowa City during an April 5 event to promote the Future Ready Iowa Act, which was recently passed by the Iowa Legislature and signed into law by Reynolds. While at the event at the Hy-Vee Market Grille in Coralville, Reynolds also touted mental health and suicide prevention legislation she signed into law. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Gov. Kim Reynolds greets Ray Hendrickson of Iowa City during an April 5 event to promote the Future Ready Iowa Act, which was recently passed by the Iowa Legislature and signed into law by Reynolds. While at the event at the Hy-Vee Market Grille in Coralville, Reynolds also touted mental health and suicide prevention legislation she signed into law. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — The good news for Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds six months before the 2018 general election is that she has a plus-7-point approval rating with Iowa voters.

The bad news is that’s down from a plus-15-point approval rating released in February.

Reynolds, a Republican who has been governor for nearly a year since being elevated to the state’s top office when Gov. Terry Branstad resigned to become ambassador to China, has a 42 to 35 percent approval/disapproval ranking, according to the latest edition of Morning Consult’s Governor Approval Rankings, released this month

The rankings were compiled from online surveys conducted with almost 275,000 registered voters, including 2,837 from Iowa, from Jan. 1 through March 31.

She had a 44 to 29 percent approval/disapproval ranking — a 15-point spread — in the February polling report from Morning Consult, a nonpartisan digital media and survey research company established in Washington. Those rankings were compiled similarly from online surveys from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.

The drop is not a complete surprise to Iowa Republicans. They point out that during that period, six Democrats who want her job were on the campaign trail bashing Reynolds’ performance.

Five of the Democrats have spent more than $3 million on about a dozen television ads — some attacking the governor — during the first quarter of the year.

Reynolds launched her first TV ad April 12 — after the polling.

In a campaign environment, a GOP operative said, it would be unreasonable to think Reynolds would maintain a plus-15 approval rating.

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Among the political handicappers, the Cook Political Report rates the Iowa governor’s race as “likely Republican.”

Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Inside Elections call it “leans Republican.”

“Leans” and “likely” aren’t the same as a “solid Republican” rating, but Reynolds’ campaign spokesman Pat Garrett believes the handicappers are right.

“Gov. Reynolds will win this election by talking about how her story reflects the experiences of a vast majority of Iowans and how her leadership is unleashing opportunity in all corners of the state,” he said. “Gov. Reynolds is the only candidate in the field with the experience and values to make Iowa even better than it is today.”

Tess Seger, spokeswoman for the Iowa Democratic Party, agrees that the decline in Reynolds’ approval rating is due, at least in part, to the heightened attention Democratic candidates and their messages are receiving.

The campaigns are helping Iowa voters see that “Reynolds’ policies and priorities put special interests ahead of the people of Iowa,” she said.

“People see that she’d rather stick with the conservative agenda on Medicaid than provide relief to suffering families,” she said. “They see that she can’t manage the budget, chooses to make cuts to services Iowa families depend on, then decided to give her wealthy donors a $1 billion tax giveaway. They see that she can’t advocate for our state with the White House and that she’s all talk and no action on protecting farmers during Trump’s trade war.”

However, Garret makes the case that despite the campaign rhetoric, voters can see that Reynolds has delivered on her commitments to voters. The governor has signed a water quality improvement bill into law along with mental health care reform, an increase in school aid and the workforce development plan, Future Ready Iowa.

“Promise. Check mark,” Garrett said.

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Morning Consult polling also found that Iowa GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, neither of whom are on the ballot this year, are less popular than they were earlier this year.

Grassley, who was re-elected to a seventh term in 2016 with 59 percent of the vote, has seen his numbers fall from a plus-21 percent approval rating to plus-17 percent, or 45-38 approval/disapproval.

Ernst, who is in the fourth year of her six-year freshman term, has dropped from a plus-10 approval rating to plus-5, or 42-37 percent approval/disapproval.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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