From left: State Senator Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, and U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron

DES MOINES, Iowa – A new poll of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District’s Republican primary shows State Senator Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, leading incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, by two points.

Public Opinion Strategies, conducting a poll on behalf of American Future Fund, surveyed 400 Republican primary voters in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District via live telephone between May 16 to May 18. The released memo says the survey sample was pulled from the voter file and stratified to ensure a representative electorate. The margin of error is +/-4.9 percent.

Their poll finds:

  1. Randy Feenstra – 41 percent
  2. Steve King – 39 percent
  3. Jeremy Taylor – 4 percent
  4. Bret Richards – 3 percent
  5. Steve Reeder – 1 percent

They note among self-identified “conservative” voters, King leads by one point. Among voters who identify as “moderate” or “liberal” GOP primary voters, Feenstra leads by 12 points.

They note that Feenstra leads in the Sioux City TV market by 21 points, and King leads in the Des Moines market (southeast counties in the district) by ten points and across the other markets in the district by 18 points.

Feenstra has run several TV ads in the Sioux City market for weeks and said he will continue to advertise until the June 2 primary.

The pollsters also tested a ballot with just Feenstra and King. In a two-way race, they note Feenstra leads King 48 percent to 41 percent.

While this is not an internal campaign poll, American Future Fund is primarily funded by Republican operative Nick Ryan, their founder, and GOP donor Bruce Rastetter, both of whom have donated to the Feenstra campaign.

A poll conducted on behalf of the Feenstra campaign on May 7 and 8 found Feenstra trailing King by three points.

The gap between King and Feenstra are within the margin of error for both polls. Internal campaign polls and polls conducted by organizations supportive of one particular candidate should be viewed with some skepticism because we never see how questions are asked and we don’t get to see cross tabs. All that are generally released are memos which just share what the campaign or groups wants to highlight. Unfortunately, one rarely sees independent polls of primaries for congressional seats. So it’s the only snapshot we have.

Last October, King released an internal poll that showed the incumbent congressman leading Feenstra 59 percent to 15 percent. The King campaign has not released internal polling since. That could be significant, but it could also mean his campaign lacked the funds to commission polls.

While internal polling is difficult to trust, campaigns also poll so they have a sense of how their candidate is doing. It doesn’t make sense for a campaign to intentionally skew a poll unless it’s just being done to drive a media narrative.

The poll that matters is on June 2 (and any mail-in ballots sent before then).

King as an incumbent holds the advantage and he still has lots of support in the district among conservatives. Feenstra has the funds to run ads. I’ve noted before that the COVID-19 lock-down, that restricted a candidate’s ability to campaign, adds an unexpected dynamic to this race. Advertising is certainly helpful to get a campaign’s message out.

I think this primary will be much closer than anyone anticipated when the race began.

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