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Poll shows strength of tea party in Iowa
The Des Moines Register released its latest Iowa Poll Sunday, and though it clearly shows the growing influence of the tea party movement in the Hawkeye State, it is still unclear what sort of impact it will have in 2010.
Thirty-three percent of those polled said they consider themselves “a supporter of the tea party movement,” with 49 percent of supporters defining themselves as independents, 34 percent Republicans and 17 percent Democrats.
Forty-nine percent of those polled said they do not support the tea party movement.
Iowans are evenly split on whether they are inclined to “keep or replace” incumbents who represent them, with a slight majority favoring to oust incumbents at the state level. Most observers say the 2010 elections will be dominated by anti-incumbent sentiment, but in a state that hasn’t voted out an incumbent governor since the 1960s, the even split does give some slight comfort to Gov. Chet Culver, who has seen his job approval ratings drop steadily since 2008.
At the local level, the poll found 59 percent favored keeping their incumbent in office.
The Register correctly points out that this anti-incumbent mood benefits Republicans, since Democrats control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s mansion. But tea party leaders are quick to dismiss the idea that the GOP is entitled to their votes. Ryan Rhodes, chairman of the Iowa Tea Party Patriots and campaign manager for 3rd District Republican Congressional candidate Dave Funk, told The Iowa Independent in December that the movement gained momentum based on frustration with both Democrats and Republicans.
Another point of note is that nearly all those polled who do support the tea party movement live in rural Iowa, small towns or the suburbs, each already considered Republican strongholds. Only 7 percent said they live in a large city. Forty-six percent consider themselves “born-again” Christians.
The GOP’s 2010 success could also hinge on its ability to mend fences after what’s shaping up to be a contentious primary season. A divide between grassroots conservatives and the party’s “establishment” is popping up in races up and down the primary ballot. The most high profile example can be found in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, with supporters of Bob Vander Plaats vowing to sit out the fall campaign if the party nominates four-term former Gov. Terry Branstad. For his part, Vander Plaats has refused to rule out running as an independent if he does lose the primary.
In Iowa House District 8, a former GOP county chair who originally entered the race as an independent has returned to the party to run against a candidate viewed by many as an “establishment” Republican. The winner will try to win a district held by a conservative Democrat for 20 years.