Whatever one thinks of Nate Silver, his 55-45 odds of Bruce Braley winning in November are interesting and hopeful. It’s not the typical results of a single poll dividing the number of respondents. It’s Silver’s form of statistical probability, and his theme has been repeated ad nauseum by the Iowa political establishment and national pundits- the race is close.
On Monday he released his latest take on the 2014 U.S. Senate election. His analysis favors Republicans to take over the upper chamber. “The problem for Democrats,” wrote Silver, “is that this year’s Senate races aren’t being fought in neutral territory. Instead, the Class II senators on the ballot this year come from states that gave Obama an average of just 46 percent of the vote in 2012.”
It will be hard to win a senate race. So, what’s new about that?
Take Silver’s analysis with a grain of salt wrote the ex-professional poker player, “I also want to advance a cautionary note. It’s still early, and we should not rule out the possibility that one party could win most or all of the competitive races.”
It is early, and in Iowa the dominant theme is whether the Democrats will get complacent in repeating the tactics of the 2010 and 2012 campaigns without adapting to the times, or if the Republicans under Jeff Kaufmann can actually mount a statewide grassroots campaign that is competitive. Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register (i.e. not their GOP cheerleader who shall go nameless) wrote this truth that Kaufmann recognizes:
That said, a campaign is as much about the candidate as the campaign tactics. Violating my own rule, I looked at social media for the hash tag #IASEN. Conservative readers, feel free to follow the link and spend the rest of your day pondering the twitter.
Republicans are expected to circle around their candidate on Nov. 4, in some cases holding their nose to a Joni Ernst vote. Democrats made it clear by leaving Braley unchallenged in the primary, that if they turn out, they’ll mostly vote for Braley. The better question is who will attract the largest voter registration contingent, so called no-preference registrants, which for the most part is expected to vote away from extremes of either party. That is where the implication for the GOP of the junior senator from Kentucky is spot on.
Here is a quote from Silver’s article about the Iowa U.S. Senate race:
Iowa is another tricky case. There, we have Republican Joni Ernst with a 45 percent chance (up from 40 percent in June) of defeating Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley. The polling in Iowa has been more consistent than in Arkansas and has the race virtually tied.
Our model will view the fundamentals of the race as slightly favoring Braley. The candidate-quality measures it evaluates all come out in his favor: He rates as being slightly closer to the center of the electorate than Ernst, he’s been elected to a higher office, and he’s raised considerably more money. Iowa is normally as purple as purple states get— the sort of state where candidate quality can make a difference.
But Braley lost ground in the polls after referring to Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley as a “farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” And President Obama’s approval ratings have been conspicuously low in Iowa. It’s hard to say why— we haven’t observed a similar pattern in demographically similar states like Minnesota and Wisconsin— and it may be a statistical fluke.
There are some very tricky races this year and perhaps we’ll see more disagreement between forecasts than we did in 2010 or 2012, depending on what factors they emphasize.
The best advice for readers is to keep calm and work to elect Bruce Braley to the U.S. Senate to represent Iowa values. Donate to the campaign by clicking here.