Joni Ernst up 6 points over Dem Bruce Braley in Iowa Senate race
Not so long ago, Iowa was considered a solid Senate seat for the Democrats to retain following the retirement of hard-left Senator Tom Harkin. But no more. As an article on the latest Des Moines Register polling put it, “The ground under Bruce Braley has shifted.”
Joni Ernst, who rose to prominence with a primary campaign ad touting her farming experience castrating hogs as good preparation for cutting pork in Washington, has opened a solid lead. Jennifer Jacobs writes:
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."
The race is not in the bag with a month and a half remaining, but the trend is strong and remarkable. Some of it is due to President Obama’s unpopularity (38% approval) in Iowa (and nationally), but some of it is self-inflicted by Braley:
…he's suffering badly with rural voters. Only 15 percent support him compared with 58 percent for Ernst. One potential reason: Two-thirds of likely voters who live in the country are bothered by a remark he made about Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley that's been perceived as besmirching farmers. (snip)
Braley's remark, made at a private fundraiser in Texas last winter, seemingly disparaged Iowa's popular 33-year senator for being a farmer, not a lawyer. Braley apologized to Grassley after the caught-on-tape remark was released in March. But that gaffe and others prompted the national political news outlet Politico last week to slot Braley's campaign as No. 1 on its list of "the worst campaigns of 2014."
Add in the fact that Ernst is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa National Guard at a time when America is entering a new war in a new country under a president who promised peace, and you get a 6 point lead. Ernst has also moderated her rhetoric, as George Will notes:
The Ernst of the primary season talked about the Harley in her driveway, the pistol in her purse and the possibility of impeaching the president. Today her less exotic persona talks about the feeble economy, the perils of Obamacare and Braley’s record, including his pride in having given in the House the culminating argument for Obamacare, which he still thinks is splendid.
It’s certainly no time for Republicans to relax, but Iowa offers a great deal of encouragement. And Ernst looks to joing a growing contingent of dynamic Republican women in statewide office that put the lie to the Demcorats' war on women gambit.