Living in Society

Franken Closing the Gap

Newport Precinct Polling Place, Nov. 3, 2010.

The first batch of results from the new Iowa Poll are in. Retired Admiral Michael Franken has closed the distance between him and incumbent U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley to within the margin of error, 43-46 percent.

“It says to me that Franken is running a competent campaign and has a shot to defeat the seemingly invincible Chuck Grassley — previously perceived to be invincible,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co. which conducted the poll, to the Des Moines Register.

The race is closer than any Grassley faced since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1980. The difference may be in so-called independent voters turning away from Grassley toward Franken.

Active voter registrations in Iowa were 1,867,161 on Oct. 3. Of these, 596,776 were Democratic, 684,800 were Republican, and 570,789 were No Party (independent), along with 14,796 others. A candidate must do well with No Party voters to win Iowa elections. In July, No Party voters were evenly split between the candidates. In the new Iowa Poll, they favor Franken by 46 to 35 percent or 11 points. The movement is substantial and important. If no party voters continue to break for Franken, Grassley’s long tenure in the U.S. Senate could be coming to an end.

The race leans Republican as we enter the final three weeks before the Nov. 8 election, with early voting starting on Wednesday, Oct. 19. A lot can happen in three weeks.

As the results of the Iowa Poll trickle out over the coming days, political activists will decide how to spend the remaining time before the election. Since the coordinated campaign was eliminated this cycle, Franken has his own operation, tactics and processes to chase and identify voters. To align with Franken now is to spend less time working on other campaigns. Yet, a race this close is encouragement enough to work to get Michael Franken over the finish line.