Joni Ernst, Matt Whitaker, and Sam Clovis listen to speakers at Homeschool Day at the Capitol.
Photo credit: Dave Davidson –

Most political observers and pundits, especially outside of Iowa, haven’t focused too much on Iowa’s U.S. Senate race.  It is not one of the key races Senate races that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been focused on.  They haven’t ignored it, but the Iowa race is not a key one in their path to victory.

Republicans did not field a marquee candidate; we’ve seen all of the candidates struggle with name ID embroiled in a five person race which could end up being decided by convention.  Because of this Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) who does not have a primary challenger seemed to be extremely formidable especially with a sizable war chest.  Through 2013 Braley raised $4.2 million and has $2.6 million on hand.  All of the Republican candidates combined raised just shy of $1.9 million in 2013 and have just over $804,000 cash on hand.

Yet Braley has yet to hit 45% in any head to head polling.  In most cases he’s hovering between 40 to 42%. Those numbers alone should trouble Democrats since Braley has already spent $1.6 million without a contested primary in a year where Nate Silver predicts will see Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate.

Enter this week.

Braley stepped in it, big time, being caught on video belittling Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) indicating his background as a farmer makes him unqualified to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee.  John Dickerson at Slate calls this the gaffe of the year.  Considering it’s March, that’s saying something.

But it is a big gaffe.  He belittled one of the chief occupations and industries in our state.  You can’t expect to do that and not get dinged.  Then he praise lawyers… enter your favorite lawyer joke here.  I don’t think anyone will be inspired by his 30 years of fighting tort reform.

The NRSC is putting more money into this race.  Braley’s own campaign is not helping him through misspelling farm terms trying bolster his farm cred, and posting a picture of an English farm.

Even chopping down a small tree in the parking lot has not stopped the bleeding.  Now courtesy of the NRSC you have a meme like this floating around.


Then Joni Ernst released her first TV ad.  Which has not only created all sorts of buzz in the media (as well as on Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert), but has generated buzz among conservatives.  This isn’t meant to be an endorsement of Ernst, but it seems like she has taken a huge leap forward in addressing her name ID problem.  She then was endorsed by Sarah Palin.  Sam Clovis to his credit has received big conservative endorsements with Eagle Forum and Citizens United as well.  These endorsements won’t necessarily help in the general election, but could provide momentum in the primary which is a little more than two months away.

So you have all this and then Rasmussen releases a poll yesterday that shows three Republican candidates are within the margin error of +/-4 percentage points trailing Braley.

A new statewide telephone survey of Likely Iowa Voters finds Braley with a 41% to 38% lead over businessman Mark Jacobs. He leads State Senator Joni Ernst 40% to 37% and runs four points ahead – 40% to 36% – of former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker. Braley posts a 13-point lead – 44% to 31% – over another GOP contender, conservative talk show host Sam Clovis.

This survey of 750 likely voters was conducted on March 24-25, so mostly before Braley’s video made the media rounds.  Perhaps polling conducted on the 25th helped close the gap some, but if I were Braley’s campaign manager I’d be extremely concerned since his gaffe has received even more media coverage.

We may have seen a tipping point in this race.

Photo credit: Dave Davidson –

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