Staff Columnist

Iowa gubernatorial poll shows power of TV

Capitol Ideas: If results are to believed, Hubbell would win primary

(File photo) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell talks to Kirkwood Community College staff after touring The Hotel at Kirkwood Center on the campus of Kirkwood Community College in southwest Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 9, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
(File photo) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell talks to Kirkwood Community College staff after touring The Hotel at Kirkwood Center on the campus of Kirkwood Community College in southwest Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 9, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

It was a bit of a shock, but it may illuminate the power of political television advertising.

A poll published last week showed Fred Hubbell with a commanding lead in the race to be Iowa Democrats’ nominee to face Gov. Kim Reynolds in this fall’s election.

The poll results were surprising given what Democrats on the ground have been saying about the race and its candidates, and the results — if reliable — may speak to the influence television advertising can have on voters.

The poll showed Hubbell was chosen by 46 percent of likely Democratic primary voters; the next-best showing was Nate Boulton at 20 percent. No other candidate broke double digits.

The poll was conducted by Kansas City-based Remington Research Group for KBUR radio in Burlington. Remington, which is headed by national Republican consultant Jeff Roe, surveyed more than 2,300 likely Iowa Democratic primary voters May 5 and 6, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Remington called only landlines for the poll; no voters were contacted on their mobile phones. Such an approach could tilt the results toward older voters.

At candidate forums and party events, Iowa Democrats have expressed support for a wide array of choices in the six-candidate field, and many more have said they are undecided on a candidate.

The other Democratic candidates are Cathy Glasson, John Norris, Andy McGuire and Ross Wilburn.

Many Democrats and political observers have said they think the support is so divided that no candidate will reach 35 percent in the June 5 primary election, in which case the party’s nominee would be chosen instead at its state convention a few weeks later.

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But in the KBUR/Remington poll, Hubbell’s support easily clears that threshold for a primary victory. Only 18 percent of respondents said they are undecided.

There has been precious little polling on the gubernatorial primary. Way back in November, the liberal political news website Iowa Starting Line published a poll, conducted by 20/20 Insight. That poll also showed Hubbell with a lead, with 22 percent of the support to Boulton’s 13 percent.

If both polls were accurate, Hubbell took the early lead and has since expanded it.

If that is the case, Hubbell’s ability to get on TV early and often may be one of the biggest factors in his success, especially in a race in which the entire field started with little name recognition among most Iowa voters.

Hubbell raised more than $3 million in 2017, far more than any of the other Democratic candidates. And his campaign ads have been on TV consistently since this past fall.

“The strong lead for Hubbell is likely related to his advantage in TV advertising which boosts name recognition,” Robin Johnson, a political-science professor at Monmouth College in the Quad Cities and host of KBUR’s “Heartland Politics,” said in a media release announcing the poll results.

Whether the poll represents an accurate snapshot of the race remains to be seen, and is tough to judge with a dearth of other polling against which to compare.

Ann Selzer, you’re up.

Reynolds Launches Another TV ad

Speaking of advertising in the gubernatorial campaign, Reynolds’ second TV ad went on the air last week.

Entitled “Longer,” the 30-second spot highlights Reynolds balancing family and work, as lieutenant governor at the time, while obtaining her degree from Iowa State University.

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Wisconsin Governor endorses Zumbach

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has endorsed Dan Zumbach in the Republican primary for Iowa secretary of agriculture, the Zumbach campaign announced.

Zumbach supported Walker’s presidential campaign in 2015.

The other Republican ag secretary candidates are Mike Naig, Craig Lang, Chad Ingels and Ray Gaesser.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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