Suffolk University released a new poll yesterday that shows that State Senator Joni Ernst (R-Red Oak) now leads the Republican field in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race. The poll taken April 3rd through April 8th surveyed 253 likely Republican voters (out of a general election pool of 800) with a margin of error of +/- 3.5%. This is the first poll of the Republican field since Ernst’s latest TV ad which this week the campaign announced yesterday would be airing in the Sioux City market after the initial ad buy in Des Moines. The net effect of the ad was through its earned media coverage because of Ernst’s comments about growing up on the farm castrating hogs. As a result she’ll be able to cut pork in Washington.
Earlier I had opined that the ad did not hurt her. This poll, while just a snapshot of the race less than two months from the primary, indicates that it has been a net gain. Jacobs, on the other hand, has outspent Ernst 100 to 1 on ads and now trails.
While Ernst currently leads the Republican field, 40% of Iowa Republicans are undecided. 25% of respondents said they would vote for Ernst. 23% said they would vote for Mark Jacobs. 7% said they would vote for Sam Clovis, 4% said they would vote for Matt Whitaker, and 1% indicated they would vote for Scott Schaben.
Among Iowa Republicans’ second choice Ernst leads as well. 19% said Ernst was their second choice. 17% said they would pick Whitaker, 14% said Jacobs would be their second choice, 9% indicated that Clovis would be their second pick, and 3% said their second choice was Schaben.
Unlike the Rasmussen Poll the Suffolk University poll shows a wider margin between Congressman Bruce Braley and Republican candidates in potential head to head polling with Jacobs and Ernst doing the best in the Republican field. Braley leads Jacobs by 6 points and Ernst by 7 points with approximately 32% of voters saying they were undecided. Also, Braley is polling less than 40% with higher name recognition, so if I were in his campaign I wouldn’t be getting comfortable. That head to head polling will likely tighten once the Republicans select a nominee.
Right now, Joni Ernst has the momentum with the ad and with being endorsed by Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney in March and SBA List endorsing her last week. The last two polls conducted among the GOP field had Ernst trailing Jacobs by 7 points and 11 points.
This race is still, however, very much up in the air with 40% of Iowa Republicans being undecided. Also, no candidate is polling remotely close to the 35% threshold needed to avoid the nomination from being decided at the state convention. A lot can happen in two months however, ask Rick Santorum.