Just over a week ago, Conn wrote up a Quinnipiac poll showing conservative Joni Ernst jumping out to a six-point lead over Democrat Bruce Braley in the Iowa Senate race. The race has been close for many weeks, so Ernst's edge in the Q-poll raised eyebrows. Outlier or trend? A new data point came in over the weekend, when the Des Moines Register released its statewide survey of the race. Trend:
The ground under Bruce Braley has shifted. The Democratic U.S. Senate candidate is 6 points behind his GOP rival, Joni Ernst, according to The Des Moines Register's new Iowa Poll of likely voters. Ernst leads 44 percent to 38 percent in a race that has for months been considered deadlocked. She leads nearly 4-1 with rural voters, and is up double digits with independents. "Very interesting, and good news not just for Ernst but also for the GOP's chances of taking the U.S. Senate," said national political prognosticator Larry Sabato of "Sabato's Crystal Ball." Just seven months ago, political analysts considered Braley almost a shoo-in for a seat held for 30 years by liberal Democrat Tom Harkin.
Braley still leads Ernst among women (46/33), but the Republican enjoys a whopping 25-point lead with men, in addition to her significant lead among independent voters. With 12 percent of the Iowa electorate undecided in the poll, Braley certainly has time and space to make up ground, but some of the trends have to be troubling for his campaign. In the DMR survey, Braley (a sitting Congressman) is struggling in the high 30's and losing his home district to Ernst; the GOP's lines of attack against him are also more potent. The poll tested each party's top negative messages, finding that Democrats' case against Ernst is less impactful than the criticisms being leveled against Braley. Voters are especially unimpressed with Braley's record of skipping House Veterans Affairs Committee meetings (66 percent say this is a problem for them), as well as his support for Obamacare (59 percent). Iowans also aren't pleased with Braley's leaked comments demeaning popular Sen. Chuck Grassley and farmers at an out-of-state fundraisers with trial lawyers, with 55 percent calling it a problem. Politico has identified Braley's campaign as one of the worst-run of the 2014 cycle. Braley is losing support from some lifelong Democrats, including one of his neighbors. The DMR story quotes another:
"I think he has an attitude about the voters and life in general which was indicated by what he said about Chuck Grassley," said Democrat Dianna Fuhrmeister, a poll respondent who grows garden vegetables for a living in rural Iowa City. "He thinks he knows better than us." Fuhrmeister, who is registered as a Democrat but considers herself an independent, said her mind is made up to vote for Ernst, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard. "She's the veteran. She seems to have common sense," she said.
Ernst is pushing back against Democratic attacks with positive ads starring some of the soldiers she led in Iraq. Here's one of them:
At last evening's debate, Braley insisted that he has a strong record on "standing up for veterans," yet even left-leaning Politifact rated the criticism that Braley missed nearly 80 percent of Veterans Affairs meetings as mostly true. Elsewhere in the Senate horserace, Cortney mentioned that Republican Dan Sullivan has opened up a modest lead in Alaska, while a fresh CNN poll shows Mary Landrieu trailing the combined total of her two GOP challengers by six points in Louisiana. CNN also shows Kay Hagan leading narrowly in North Carolina, 46-43. The good news for Hagan is that she's still ahead. The bad news is that she's still frozen in the mid-40's, Republican Thom Tillis is within striking distance -- with stronger favorable ratings than she has. "Tillis has more room to grow than does Hagan," writes Noah Rothman at Hot Air. Hagan will also have to answer new questions about a Politico scoop that her husband's company benefitted from nearly $400,000 in the 2009 'stimulus,' for which she voted. She's probably not thrilled with this headline either. And out in Colorado, a Democratic poll shows Republican Cory Gardner leading Sen. Mark Udall by two points (a recent Q-poll had Gardner ahead by six), which might explain why Democrats are freaking out over Gardner's latest television ad that literally calls Udall a nice guy: