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Polling in Iowa's 1st District

A new poll conducted for wealthy businessman Mike Whalen's (R) campaign sheds some light on the state of play in eastern Iowa's 1st U.S. House district -- one of the most competitive open seats in the country.

The survey, which was conducted by John McLaughlin, shows Whalen with a comfortable lead over state Rep. Bill Dix and attorney Brian Kennedy. Whalen received 38 percent of the vote to Dix's 11.5 percent and Kennedy's six percent.

Much of Whalen's large lead at the moment seems due to the fact that he is considerably better known than his two Republican rivals. Just 27 percent of those tested had never heard of Whalen compared to 47 percent who had never heard of Dix and 55 percent who said the same of Kennedy. Whalen has been a regular presence on television in the district for years, promoting his Iowa Machine Shed restaurant chain. At the end of last year, Kennedy filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Whalen's appearance in the ads for his restaurants amounted to an illegal corporate donation to his campaign.

Although the primary is just four months away, both the Republican and Democratic races have been extremely quiet. The candidates largely focused on fundraising during 2005. Judging by the fundraising totals, Dix is best positioned to make up the name identification gap with Whalen. The state legislator ended last year with $257,000 in the bank, well ahead of Kennedy's $164,000 warchest and Whalen's $84,000. Remember, however, that Whalen is personally wealthy and could easily make up the financial difference with the stroke of a pen.

If possible, the Democratic primary has been even less exciting so far this cycle. Of the three candidates running, attorney Bruce Braley appears to be the frontrunner due to his fundraising edge over ex-Greater Dubuque Development Corp. Director Rick Dickinson and former state Rep. Bill Gluba. Braley ended 2005 with $289,000 in the bank, well ahead of Dickinson ($118,000) and Gluba ($28,000).

Regardless of the eventual nominees, Democrats start out with an edge here. Although GOP Rep. Jim Nussle has held the seat since 1990, the district favors Democrats -- as evidenced by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's (D) 53 percent to 46 percent win over President Bush in the 2004 election. Nussle is vacating the seat to run for governor.

By Chris Cillizza  |  February 21, 2006; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  House  
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I concur with Charlie. Iowa 1 isn't a real bellwhether of where the country is compared to other districts.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal | February 21, 2006 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Iowa 1 isn't even the second most competitive open seat. With a +5 Democratic performance rating Iowa 1 should be less competitive than both Arizona 8 and Illinois 6 which have equal and +1 Republican performance.

Posted by: charlie | February 21, 2006 12:17 PM | Report abuse

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