The Des Moines Register didn't do Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley any favors on Friday.
The day after Braley announced his intention to run for the Senate seat belonging to retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the front page of the Register is touting a poll showing that former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat currently serving in the Obama administration as Agriculture secretary, is seen as the most appealing candidate in a new poll conducted for the newspaper.
A majority of Iowans, 56 percent, say Vilsack would make an appealing candidate for Senate. Just 35 percent say he would not. Vilsack hasn't said he would run, though he hasn't ruled it out.
The newspaper quotes pollster Ann Selzer, whose West Des Moines firm conducted the poll, as saying, "This is the kind of poll finding that launches campaigns."
In comparison, only 36 percent of respondents said Braley, a fourth-term congressman, would make an appealing Senate candidate. A third said he would not be an appealing candidate.
Republican Rep. Tom Latham earned the best score of any of the GOP contenders on this measure. Forty percent said he would make an appealing candidate, compared to 34 percent who said he would not. Some Republicans see Rep. Steve King as less palatable in a general election, and the Register poll suggests that might be the case: Just 33 percent think he would be an appealing candidate, while 41 percent say he would not. King took on the Karl Rove-backed group that expressed concern about his possible candidacy in a fundraising appeal on Thursday; that story also appeared on the front page of the Register on Friday, instead of Braley's announcement.
The poll also asked Iowans if former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack, who lost a contested House race to King in 2012, would be an appealing candidate; 42 percent said she would, and 46 percent said she would not. But Jessica Vanden Berg, an aide to Christie Vilsack, said she was not running for Senate. "She is not running," Vanden Berg told the Register, "because she is looking into another exciting opportunity." Vanden Berg declined to reveal more details to the Register, though it is possible that three of the state's four House seats could be open next year, if Braley, King and Latham all decide to run. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad's term is also up next year; he has not said if he will seek reelection.
The Register poll of 802 adults was conducted Feb. 3-6, prior to Braley announcing his candidacy. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points.