With three weeks to go until election day, internal polling released by the Blum campaign shows a close race between Congressman Rod Blum (R-Iowa) and his Democratic challenger State Representative Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque).
Finkenauer leads Blum 45 percent to 43 percent with the Libertarian nominee Tony Hageman trailing with four percent. Six percent of respondents said they were undecided.
This poll was conducted the Polling Company on behalf of the Blum Campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee between October 12-13, 2018, among 400 registered Iowa voters, using a multi-frame sample of live callers, 70% to landline and 30% to cell phones. This sample was split among Republicans (34%), Democrats (36%), and Independents (30%) using voter registration statistics and historical turnout models.
The margin of error for the poll is +/- 4.9 percent so essentially Blum and Finkenauer are statistically tied.
The latest independent polling in this district was in September with the New York Times/Siena College poll showing Finkenauer up by 15 points and an Emerson College Poll showing Finkenauer up by 5 points. An earlier poll by the Polling Company from early October had Finkenauer up by one point. The New York Times/Siena College poll turnout model is questionable, and it’s frankly an outlier.
Blum has been a target of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) among other liberal groups in a district that has a Democratic voter registration advantage (a 23,000 registered voter edge). Blum’s seat, seen as one of the most at-risk for the midterms with an anticipated “blue wave,” has lots of outside funding.
Over $5 million has been raised for this race. Finkenauer has raised twice as much money as Blum $3.5 million to $1.7 million. She has outspent Blum 10 to 1. Finkenauer has spent $2.9 million dollars while Blum has spent $221,138. Heading toward election day he has almost $1 million more cash on hand than Finkenauer.
Only 17.1 percent of Finkenauer’s individual donations have come from Iowa donors according to Open Secrets. Only 6.6 percent of her individual donations have come from the district. Comparatively, 53.4 percent of Blum’s individual donations come from in-state and 46.8 percent of his donations come from within the district.
Excluding out-of-state money from individual donors, Blum has raised twice as much from Iowa donors than Finkenauer – $411,301 to $209,463. He has raised almost four-and-a-half times as much from individual donors within the district – $360,751 to $81,313.
The top three places Finkenauer’s donations come from are Los Angeles-Long Beach, New York, and Boston compared to Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo-Cedar Falls for Blum.
Also, outside groups have spent over $800,000 in opposition to Blum according to Open Secrets.
The DCCC canceled their airtime in the district in September but launched a new ad after this poll was released signaling that the race has tightened. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC with ties to House Republican Leadership, launched their first ad in the district that ties Finkenauer to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
With all of the Democratic spending in a favorable year and district for Democrats, it is remarkable that the race is this close. As we have seen in 2014 and 2016 it all depends on the independent vote as “no party” voters are the largest bloc in the district.