CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa’s incumbent congressmen hold double-digit leads with less than eight weeks before the Nov. 4 election while there are competitive races for two open House seats, according to a Loras College poll.
It also found that President Barack Obama’s approval numbers among Iowa voters continue to fall.
“Looking at these four congressional races, the two open seats are the most intriguing,” according to Christopher Budzisz, associate professor of politics and Director of the Loras College Poll. “Both appear close, and they both feature large percentages of undecided voters.”
In the 1st District race to succeed Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, state Rep. Pat Murphy has a 1.6 percentage point lead over Republican Rod Blum, 34.6 to 33 percent, with a third of voters undecided.
The Murphy campaign said the poll confirms what earlier polls have shown — the Dubuque Democrat leading Blum.
“It’s clear that voters have rejected Rod Blum,” campaign manager Aaron Bly said. “Blum has made it clear that he is on the side of the ultrawealthy and the special interests, and not on the side of middle class Iowa families.”
However, Blum is taking encouragement from the poll that spokesman Keegan Conway said reflects a 10 percentage point drop from Murphy’s internal poll a few weeks ago.
“Murphy’s bizarre scare tactics about immigration, Social Security and Medicare just aren’t working,” Conway said.
He also pointed to Blum’s 10-point lead with the independent-no party voters who make up the largest voting bloc in the 1st District, where Democrats hold a 33 to 27 percent advantage in voter registration. The remaining 40 percent are registered as “no party.”
“These voters are looking for a common sense, real-world leader like Rod, not a career politician like Pat Murphy,” Conway said.
Before the end of the day, the Murphy campaign was using the poll to raise funds.
“This morning, Loras College released a brand new poll showing that Pat’s Tea Party opponent is within a few percentage points of Pat,” according to an email appeal that went out Wednesday afternoon. It warned without additional contributions, Blum “could end up buying this seat.”
In the open-seat 3rd District race, former state senator Staci Appel leads former Sen. Chuck Grassley chief of staff David Young 40.3 to 34.3 percent, according to the poll. One in four voters remains undecided.
The poll also found that 2nd District Rep. Dave Loebsack has a 48.7 percent to 32.1 percent lead over Republican challenger Mariannette Miller-Meeks with 19 percent undecided.
Miller-Meeks campaign manager Matt Sauvage said the “clear contrast” between Miller-Meeks and Loebsack will help the Ottumwa physician win over those independent voters.
“Miller-Meeks is busy meeting with voters all across the district to talk about her solutions to the challenges we face,” Sauvage said. Unlike Loebsack “who puts Washington special interests first ... she will always put them first.”
Loebsack campaign manager Jennie Johnson said the Loras number reflects what the former college professor is hearing when he’s meeting with 2nd District voters.
“He feels comfortable that he is in the lead, but will take nothing for granted,” she said. He will continue to talk to voters about his differences with Miller-Meeks “and the real harm that could come from her extreme views,” she said.
In the 4th District, GOP Rep. Steve King leads Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer 47.3 percent to 36 percent. Nearly 20 percent are undecided.
The challenge for the campaigns in these open-seat races will be to turn undecided voters into supporters, Budzisz said.
Since Loras last polled Iowans in June, President Barack Obama’s approval rating has dropped from 42.5 percent to 40.7 percent. If there was any good news for the president and Democrats it was that Obama’s disapproval number also fell — from 54.2 percent to 53 percent.
The percentage of voters unsure about Obama’s performance rose from 3.4 percent to 6.4 percent.
The numbers are consistent with recent polling of national and state sentiment, Budzisz said.
The poll of 300 registered voters who either voted in 2012 or registered since then has a margin of error of 5.6 percent. It was conducted Sept. 2-5, contacting people by landline and cellphone.