Terry Branstad served as Governor of Iowa for four terms. Bob Vander Plaats' only experience with political office has been losing campaigns for it. But fueled by support from conservatives and an anti-establishment environment Vander Plaats appears to at least have a chance at pulling a big upset in next week's primary. Branstad currently stands at a surprisingly low 46%, followed by Vander Plaats at 31% and Rod Roberts at 13%.
The race is particularly tight among the conservative voters who have been giving GOP establishment candidates fits across the country so far in 2010. With them Branstad leads Vander Plaats only 41-35. He expands his overall lead thanks to a 58-19 advantage with moderates.
Among voters that actually know who Vander Plaats is- whether they see him favorably or unfavorably- he leads Branstad 42-37. The question is if there's enough time left for Vander Plaats to completely make up the huge gap in name recognition he began the campaign with. 79% of voters have an opinion of Branstad, with it breaking down positively by a 59/20 margin. Meanwhile only 66% have an opinion of Vander Plaats with 47% seeing him favorably to 19% unfavorably.
There are very clear age divisions in the race. It's tied among voters under 45, who may not even remember Branstad's time as Governor. But he's up 55-20 with senior citizens, who are certainly likely to remember his tenure, and that's fueling most of his overall victory.
Branstad still has to be seen as the favorite but the race has shaped up closer than expected and it's one worth keeping an eye on in the final week.
Full results here