DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — The candidates in the Iowa Senate race aggressively attacked each other Saturday in their second debate, as they both seek to appeal to undecided voters in the tight race.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley accused Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst of being too conservative for the state, while Ernst tried to tie Braley to unpopular Democrats, including President Barack Obama.
"As the president stated last week, this November, this fall, his policies are on the ballot," Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, said in her opening remarks. "We see that now that Congressman Braley has voted 95 percent of the time supporting (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and the president's agenda."
Braley, a four-term congressman from Waterloo, sought to portray himself as a collaborative lawmaker, saying: "I will continue to work with anyone that has a good idea that's good for Iowa."
The two are competing in one of the closest Senate races in the nation, vying for the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. The race is viewed as crucial as Republicans seek to gain six seats and become the majority party in the chamber.
A new Iowa Poll from the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics released Saturday showed Ernst winning 47 percent of likely voters and Braley 46 percent. That poll of 1,000 likely voters has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
With weeks to go, both candidates are seeking to distinguish themselves. Braley, 56, has focused on female voters, questioning Ernst's positions on abortion and the minimum wage. Ernst, 44, of Red Oak, has sought to tie Braley to Washington dysfunction and says she will bring "Iowa values" to Congress.
Braley repeatedly accused Ernst of trying to soft-peddle her conservative views, using the catchphrase: "sound bites have consequences."
"Sen. Ernst is fond of saying things that sound good, but when you look at what they mean to Iowans they don't make Iowans better off," Braley said, questioning her support for Iowa farmers.
Ernst swung back, referencing a video released earlier this year that shows Braley, an attorney, referring to Republican Sen. Charles Grassley as a "farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law."
"You poked fun at Sen. Grassley for being just a farmer," Ernst said. Braley said he has apologized for the remark.
Both accused the other of being tied to special interest groups and benefiting from outside spending.
Braley asked Ernst to join him in asking all outside groups to take down their ads. Ernst said there were "reforms that could be made" but said she was being outspent by groups supporting Braley.
Ernst announced impressive fundraising numbers Friday for the latest financial quarter. Her campaign said she raised $6 million between July 1 and Sept. 30. She concluded the quarter with $3.2 million in cash.
Braley's campaign said he raised $2.8 million in the same period. Braley's campaign has declined to say how much cash he has left.