Photo credit: Dave Davidson -
Photo credit: Dave Davidson –

Prior to last night’s U.S. Senate Debate the Des Moines Register released their latest Iowa Poll in the race.  Ernst going into October looks to be in a strong position and the numbers are really positive, but it is one poll and polling seems to be very fickle in September so this poll should be met with cautious optimism by the Ernst campaign and Ernst supporters.

In the latest poll Ernst leads Braley by six points – 44% to 38%.  One number that jumps out at me is the sample size, out of 800 polled only 546 are likely voters.  Compare that to Rasmussen’s latest poll that had 750 likely voters polled, Fox News polled 600 likely voters, Quinnipiac polled 1167 likely voters, and CNN polled 608 likely voters.

Ernst tied with Braley 42% to 42% in Braley’s Congressional district.  This may also explain the close race thus far in the Iowa 1st Congressional District race between State Representative Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque) and Republican businessman Rod Blum.  The only poll taken of the race from early this month shows Murphy leading Blum by only two points well within the margin of error.  This district leans Democrat with a 22,000 voter registration edge so it should be safe Democrat territory.  Iowa 4th Congressional District shows Ernst leading Braley by 23 points.

Ernst leads all income brackets except those earning less than $30,000 a year.  She leads all age brackets, but only leads by a point with the 65+ crowd which shows that Braley’s criticism of Ernst’s position on Social Security and on the minimum wage may be drawing blood.  56% of likely Iowa voters said that Ernst’s openness to privatizing Social Security is a problem.  The perceived connection to the Koch Brothers is considered a problem with 49% of those polled.

What is mind-boggling with this polls is that Ernst leads among rural voters by 43 points – 58% to 15%, and this appears to be directly tied to Braley’s statement about U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley being unfit to serve as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee because he’s a farmer and not a lawyer.  The Des Moines Register reports that 2/3 of rural voters were bothered by that comment.  55% of all likely voters saw that as a problem for Bruce Braley.

Negative ads highlighting Bruce Braley missing 75% of the Veterans Affairs hearings seem to have had an effect with 66% saying that is a problem for Braley.  Only 14% of voters believed it wasn’t a problem.  17% believe it isn’t true.

Braley leads Ernst among women 46% to 33%.  Ernst’s campaign has unfortunately allowed the Braley camp to define her on abortion and contraception by their refusal to discuss this issue and addressing negative ads run against her on this issue.  Republicans have been leery bring this issue up, but Democrats don’t have this problem.

Ernst leads among men by 25 points – 55% to 30%.

Two numbers to keep in mind – 12% are undecided in this race and 31% of those poll said they could still change their mind.

Plus this is just one poll, so this race is very much in play.  The last two polls released mid-September indicate a tied race.  Rasmussen had Ernst and Braley tied at 43%.  Fox News had them tied at 41%.

The Quinnipiac poll gave Ernst a 6 point lead 50% to 44%, but it was weighted heavier towards independents with 41% of the sample claiming they were independent with Republicans having 28% and Democrats with 26%.  Ernst in that poll leads the independent voters by 7 points.  While that is reflective of active voter registration there is doubt that will be an accurate reflection of a midterm election turnout among independents.  The Des Moines Register has not released their cross-tabs so how that poll is weighted is uncertain.  The Quinnipiac poll shows Ernst with a sizeable lead among men – 56% to 39% with Braley’s lead among women was only 6 points – 50% to 44%.

The two polls prior to Quinnipiac gave Braley a lead in early September.  CNN had Braley leading by 1 point – 49% to 48%.  I question any poll that indicates only 3% is undecided.  The Loras College poll gave Braley a four point lead – 45% to 41%.

Right now Ernst holds a 2.2% lead according to the Real Clear Politics average.  Unless the next poll indicates a growing gap between Ernst and Braley it would be wiser to still view this race as a toss-up.  It’s really up to the independent voter turnout and that voting bloc this cycle seems to favor Ernst.

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