Ernst takes lead in IA Senate race
Two polls out today show Republican state senator Joni Ernst, winner of the GOP Senate primary, taking a slim lead on her Democratic opponent Rep. Bruce Braley. The candidates are running to fill the seat left open by Senator Tom Harkin;s retirement.
A Rasmussen Reports poll of 750 likely Iowa voters shows 45 percent of respondents supporting Ernst, against 44 percent supporting Braley. Nine percent were undecided and 3 percent favored someone else.
And a Loras College poll gives her an even bigger lead: 48 percent to 41.7 percent over Braley, with 10.3 percent undecided. That survey checked in with 600 likely general election voters.
Both polls were conducted on June 4 and 5, the two days immediately following the primary. During that time, Ernst, a state senator from Red Oak, received big media coverage from her primary victory and embarked on a campaign tour with Gov. Terry Branstad.
Braley, a congressman from Waterloo, released a TV ad critical of Ernst.
Both polls reported a 4-point margin of error.
Democrats were quick to argue on Twitter and elsewhere that Rasmussen has a GOP bias, pointing to an analysis of polling on the 2012 presidential race by poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight.
Both polls also tested Iowa's gubernatorial race, and each found incumbent Republican Terry Branstad leading Democratic challenger Jack Hatch.
In the Loras poll, Branstad led 51.7 percent to 37.8 percent. In the Rasmussen poll, his lead was smaller, 49-40.
Branstad is the most popular politician in Iowa and will be a big help to Ernst, considering he is a shoo in for re-election at this point.
Braley shot himself in the foot las March when he made some derogatory comments directed against another popular Iowa politician, Senator Charles Grassley.
Braley compounded matters for Democrats when he was caught on video in March denigrating Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) as just "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school." David Yepsin, the longtime observer of Iowa politics, said at the time that Braley's "elitist" comments would "hurt him" in the fall.
Braley made things worse right out of the gate this week. First, his campaign released an attack ad comparing Ernst to a baby chicken--a chick!
“First, Bruce Braley insults Senator Grassley and every single Iowa farmer,” an Ernst spokeswoman said in a statement. “Now, he degrades and insults Iowa women by comparing Joni Ernst to a ‘chick.’ Braley previously told the trial lawyers that if they gave him money, he would be their voice in the Senate, and it’s now clear that it comes at the expense of everyone else.”
Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political science professor, immediately pointed out the Democrats' hypocrisy on the so-called "war on women." He tweeted, "Imagine if a GOP candidate had used a 'chick' in an ad against a female opponent."
The Braley campaign's ad was wrong on the merits, too, as it tried to claim that Ernst does not have a record of cutting pork. Ernst, however, has supported a hiring freeze in Iowa's government, co-sponsored bills to limit the amount of state government spending, and called for a constitutional amendment to limit both government spending and the ability to raise taxes, as her campaign noted.
Democrats are beginning to worry if Braley is ready for prime time. A statewide campaign is very different from a congressional campaign and so far, Braley has shown a propensity to put his foot in his mouth. That can only help Ernst's efforts who has the advantage of a united Republican party and the promise of lots of outside cash to fund her campaign.