Poll: Ernst, Braley in Dead Heat in Iowa Senate Race

Image: Poll: Ernst, Braley in Dead Heat in Iowa Senate Race Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst, left, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley. (Charlie Neibergall/AP; Handout/AP)

Wednesday, 27 Aug 2014 05:00 PM

By Cathy Burke

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The Iowa race for U.S. Senate is a dead heat between Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst and Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley in a contest that will help decide control of the Senate – and may depend on the votes of independents.

The Suffolk University/USA Today survey found Ernst and Braley tied at 40 percent each, with little threat from the rest of the field.

Independent Party candidate Rick Stewart drew 2 percent with the remaining candidate polling at 1 percent each including Bob Quast of the Bob Quast for Term Limits party, Libertarian Douglas Butzier and independent Ruth Smith.

Fifteen percent were undecided, the poll shows.

"The poll pits Democrat Braley's congressional district in the northeast against Ernst's Senate district in the southwest, but the voters in between will make the difference," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

"It's a crazy race you got there," Paleologos told the Des Moines Register. "The race is dead even."

A much more telling story is coming from independents, who split their allegiance roughly down the middle; 39 percent said they would vote for Ernst against 36 percent supporting Braley, the poll shows.

"The challenge for the campaigns is they've got to figure out what kinds of things independents are talking about and feeling," Paleologos told the Register. "That's the task ahead."

Rachel Paine Caufield, a political scientist at Drake University in Des Moines, told the newspaper that Ernst is "a much stronger candidate now than when she started the race."

"She got some experience and her campaign very quickly had to establish the connections with party activists and had to establish a strong narrative of who she was as a candidate," Caufiled said, noting that Braley "is demonstrating some of the weaknesses of not having a primary challenge."

"I don't think his campaign established a narrative early regarding who he was and what he would bring to the state, and so in that respect, I think he's playing catch-up," she said.

The candidates are aiming to take over the Senate seat held for the past 30 years by Democrat Tom Harkin, who is retiring in January.

"The Democrats are spenders; it's terrible," retiree Kristy Hansen told the newspaper. "We just don't need any more of that."

Braley, she added, "has foot-in-mouth disease, with what he did with [Republican Sen. Chuck] Grassley," referring to the apology Braley was forced to make when a video surfaced of him telling a fundraiser that if the GOP won control, the Senate could have "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee."

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