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Scott Rasmussen released a new poll of the Iowa governor and U.S. Senate races today. Rasmussen surveyed 500 "likely Iowa voters" on February 18.

Given Rasmussen's usual "house effect" favoring Republican candidates, I expected the numbers to be worse for Democrats than other recent Iowa polling. Instead, they were comparable to last week's Research 2000 Iowa poll for KCCI-TV and the Selzer and Co. poll for the Des Moines Register, which was conducted three weeks ago.

Like the other pollsters, Rasmussen found Governor Chet Culver well behind Republican front-runner Terry Branstad. Like Research 2000, Rasmussen found Senator Chuck Grassley above 50 percent against Democratic challengers, but well below Grassley's usual re-election numbers and even below the numbers Rasmussen found for Grassley in late January.

More details are after the jump.

Here are Rasmussen's topline numbers for the governor's race. Culver was at 41 percent strongly or somewhat approve and 57 percent strongly or somewhat disapprove. As we've seen in several polls, Culver's approval numbers are a bit below President Barack Obama's in Iowa. Among Rasmussen's Iowa respondents, Obama was at 45 percent strongly or somewhat approve and 54 percent strongly or somewhat disapprove.

In Rasmussen's head to head match-ups, Branstad led Culver 53 percent to 37 percent, very close to the 54-38 margin Research 2000 found and a bit better than the 53-33 lead Branstad had in the latest Selzer poll.

I'm confused about Rasmussen's numbers for Culver against Bob Vander Plaats. The chart shows Vander Plaats leading 46-40, but Rasmussen's summary of the results says "Culver trails by just four points" against Vander Plaats. I will update this post when I get some clarification about the correct numbers. Research 2000 had Culver leading Vander Plaats 41-38, while Selzer had Vander Plaats ahead 43-40.

Moving to the Senate race, Rasmussen's latest poll found Grassley above 50 percent against each of his three Democratic challengers. He leads Roxanne Conlin 53 percent to 36 percent, Bob Krause 55 percent to 33 percent and Tom Fiegen 56 percent to 28 percent.

Rasmusssen's new numbers are in line with last week's Research 2000 poll showing Grassley ahead of Conlin by 56 percent to 35 percent. (Research 2000 did not ask about the other Democratic contenders.) Selzer's latest survey for the Des Moines Register did not poll Grassley against the Democrats but found Grassley's approval rating at 54 percent, an all-time low for him in that poll.

It's worth noting that Rasmussen found larger leads for Grassley in the one-day Iowa poll conducted on January 26, 2010. In that survey, Grassley led Conlin 59-31, Krause 59-26 and Fiegen 61-25. Perhaps Grassley has slipped a bit since then, or maybe the Republican's numbers in late January were a bit inflated because of the media coverage surrounding Scott Brown's victory in the Massachusetts special election. Or, maybe this is just statistical noise.

Either way, there's a good chance that the Democratic nominee will make it much closer than any of Grassley's previous re-election contests. Grassley has never been re-elected with less than 66 percent of the vote.

Share any thoughts about the gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races in this thread. Also, feel free to predict when we'll see some public poll of the Republican primary for governor. Branstad has been in the race quite a while now, and I'd like to see how he lines up against his Republican rivals.

Originally posted to desmoinesdem on Mon Feb 22, 2010 at 03:03 PM PST.

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