Iowa has turned into an unexpected pickup opportunity for Senate Republicans, so much so that Democrats supporting Representative Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) have to cite a poll showing him in a dead heat with Joni Ernst to bolster his candidacy.
The Washington Post surveyed the race from the Democratic perspective. “Ernst’s effort to project a more moderate image reflects what Democrats say is a shift in the dynamic in one of the closest and most contentious midterm campaigns in the country,” according to the Post. “The question is whether Iowa is part of a broader political shift in other competitive states that would allow Democrats to maintain their Senate majority, even if by the slimmest of margins.”
The polling data cited in the story suggests not. “A CNN-ORC poll released Tuesday shows Braley leading Ernst by 49 percent to 48 percent among likely voters, within the margin of error,” the Post notes. “Among registered voters, Braley leads by 50 percent to 42 percent.”
As a rule, the likely-voters data is more telling than the registered voters. For the registered voters to be a major factor, the election would have to see higher turnout than pollsters expect; midterms aren’t known for their high turnout.
President Obama was very good at motivating people who didn’t vote very often to go to the polls, but Democrats shouldn’t count on that working in Iowa this year. He’s not on the ballot, for one thing. Furthermore, just 39 percent of likely voters in Iowa approve of Obama’s job performance, according to the CNN-ORC poll, while 58 percent disapprove.
Registered voters are even more displeased with Obama. Just 37 percent approve, while 57 percent disapprove. Among all respondents, he’s at 37–57.
Quinnipiac has a new survey out showing that Ernst leads Braley 50–44, largely because she has a seven-point lead among independents and voters dislike Obama.
“Almost three in 10 voters say theirs is mainly a vote against the president, a troubling number for Democrats,” Quinnipiac’s Peter A. Brown said. “Only 12 percent say they are voting to back the president. If these results show up in other states, it could produce the kind of wave for which Republicans are hoping.”
Democrats have spent a lot of money to keep this race competitive, while Ernst’s campaign transitioned from the primary to the general and wasn’t even on television for about ten days. It’s a close race, but given the advantages Democrats had going in, it’s telling that the best they can say now is that they might be tied.