A new poll out today showed Chuck Grassley increasing his lead over Patty Judge in Iowa’s senate race, holding a 50% to 37% advantage over the Democrat. But the poll was conducted by the newly-formed RABA Research (Red America, Blue America), a bi-partisan Iowa firm whose internal personal and professional dynamics create an extremely peculiar situation for a polling group.

One of the founders of RABA is Tim Albrecht, a longtime Iowa Republican operative who has worked in many top communications posts. He is also a top adviser to the Republican Party of Iowa, helping in particular with Grassley’s campaign. So to start with, it’s rather odd for a Grassley adviser to be conducting and promoting a poll that has Grassley in a notably better position than other recent surveys.

Add to that the fact that Albrecht, in his role as a Republican adviser, has repeatedly tried to discount other polls showing Judge doing well. In particular, he lambasted the results of a PPP survey that showed Grassley under 50%, claiming you couldn’t trust it because the Judge campaign paid PPP to conduct polling for them.

It didn’t seem to matter to Albrecht at the time that he literally was encouraging press earlier that day to attend and report on a poll his firm conducted at the behest of the trucking industry.

There’s a few issues with this.

First, campaigns often pay polling outlets to survey their own race – if it’s a respectable, credible pollster with a history you can measure, they’re not going to skew their poll for a client. They’re not going to risk their credibility like that if they’re already well-established and well-respected. However, campaigns may just not release polls that don’t look good for them.

Second, in the case of today’s RABA poll, it’s an actual Republican adviser working with Grassley who is conducting the poll. Not a campaign paying an independent pollster to take a look. So this is a much different situation – many would argue more questionable – than the one in which Albrecht criticized Judge’s campaign over.

Third, it’s thoroughly ridiculous for a political operative to run around trashing the credibility of polls on a shaky rationale and then to turn around and insist that his new polling firm is completely trustworthy. Especially when he’s still working for partisan political campaigns. And perhaps Albrecht could get the benefit of the doubt here if he hadn’t spent the last several years acting like an unprofessional frat boy on Twitter, mocking Democrats with ridiculous, over-the-top accusations and peppering many of his tweets with “LULZ.”

That is certainly a type of political communications strategy, and in some cases it works in the short-term. But it’s this type of political hack-iness that can also damage your personal credibility, which isn’t helpful when you then try to run a credible, independent operation.

Now, could this RABA poll be correct? Certainly. The last three polls conducted on the Iowa senate race had Grassley up between 7 and 10 points. Grassley’s campaign recently began airing a very significant amount of ads throughout the state, so it’s possible his position has improved. It’s also possible it hasn’t. But it is certainly a jump in Grassley support from the previous polls, so the fact that it was conducted by a Republican adviser could create some doubts. It’s also a new polling firm, started earlier this year, so it’ll take some time to be able to test how accurate they are (though some of their polling during the primaries were pretty close to the final results).

The other rather funny part of this story is Brad Anderson’s role in it, the Democratic side of RABA. There were some raised eyebrows behind the scenes in Iowa Democratic politics when Anderson signed on to the project, and he’s found himself in an interesting position today. After a rough morning of news for the Judge campaign with many outlets picking up the bad numbers, Anderson took to Twitter to downplay the results.

It’s pretty hilarious to watch a Democrat try to spin a 13-point deficit into a scenario where Grassley goes down like Jim Leach. Even funnier is that he’s part of the polling firm himself. He’s trying to downplay what his own survey found! And best of all: Anderson worked at Link Strategies for many years, the same firm that is running Judge’s campaign. His own former co-workers are trying to discredit his polling firm.

Anderson is largely rumored to have elected office ambitions in the future, after losing a close race for Secretary of State in 2014. So it’s likely a number of Democratic operatives and donors are wondering why the hell he joined up with these Republicans and are putting out polls that are damaging to Iowa’s top Democratic candidates this year. Perhaps that’s what prompted this bit of what seems like damage control.

So on one side at RABA, you have a current Republican adviser running polls on the races he’s involved in, while on the other side you have a Democratic operative trying to downplay the results when they’re not good for Democrats.

Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t the best idea to have two political operatives start up an independent polling firm that surveys Iowa races.



by Pat Rynard
Posted 9/13/16

2 thoughts on “Grassley Adviser Polls Senate Race, Finds Good News For Grassley

  1. The big problem we have is that STILL about 25% of Dems say they are tilting to Grassley. This proportion hasn’t changed much since Art Small’s race. It is a constant based on name ID, a few good memories and low information on his actual performance. Thanks to Starting Line for getting some of that information out, but it’s going take a lot more targeting of our friends to turn this around. They should be low-hanging fruit.

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