This year's race for governor in Iowa continues to be largely a battle between two candidates who've already held the office.
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state shows former Republican Governor Terry Branstad leading current Governor Chet Culver by 16 points, 52 percent to 36 percent. Six percent (6 percent) prefer some other candidate, and six percent (6 percent) are undecided.
Branstad, who served as governor from 1983 to 1999, held virtually identical leads over the Democratic incumbent a month ago and in the first survey of the race last September.
Culver is doing better this month, however, against another Republican, Bob Vander Plaats, a businessman and former high school principal with failed runs for governor and lieutenant governor under his belt. Vander Plaats led Culver by six points a month ago but now holds a narrow 42 percent to 40 percent lead. Eight percent (8 percent) favor another candidate, and 11 percent are undecided.
Culver also barely edges a newcomer in the race, State Representative Rod Roberts, by 40 percent to 38 percent margin. Given this match-up, 10 percent of Iowa voters favor another candidate, and 13 percent are undecided.
Republicans will pick their gubernatorial candidate in a June 8 primary.
Republican Charles Grassley continues to hold a comfortable lead over his three chief Democratic challengers in the U.S. Senate race in Iowa.
Clearly a problem for Culver is that for the second month in a row, just 41 percent of voters in the state approve of the job he's doing, with 11 percent who Strongly Approve. Fifty-seven percent (57 percent) disapprove of his job performance, including 33 percent who Strongly Disapprove.
Male voters prefer the Republican over Culver in all three match-ups, but Branstad is the only GOP hopeful who wins female voters away from the incumbent. Voters not affiliated with either major party favor the Republicans by double-digit margins.
Nineteen percent (19 percent) of all Iowa voters hold a very favorable opinion of Culver, while 30 percent view him very unfavorably.
Branstad is viewed very favorably by 26 percent and very unfavorably by 18 percent.
For Vander Plaats, very favorables and very unfavorables both total 15 percent.
Roberts is regarded very favorably by six percent (6 percent) and very unfavorably by six percent (6 percent).
Just six percent (6 percent) of voters in the state have no opinion of either Culver or Branstad. But 27 percent don't know enough about Vander Plaats to venture even a soft favorable or unfavorable opinion of him. Forty-two percent (42 percent) have no opinion of Roberts.
That's one reason why at this point in a campaign, Rasmussen Reports considers the number of people with a strong opinion more significant than the total favorable/unfavorable numbers.
Barack Obama carried Iowa with 54 percent of the vote in 2008, and now 50 percent of voters in the state approve of his performance as president.
Forty-nine percent (49 percent) disapprove. These findings include 26 percent who Strongly Approve and 39 percent who Strongly Disapprove.
This survey was taken prior to the passage of the controversial national health care plan, so it's not clear what impact, if any, that will have on voters in Iowa. In the Senate, Grassley voted against the plan, while Iowa's other senator, Democrat Tom Harkin, voted in favor of it.