Iowa Senate Race Now Toss Up, Boosting Chances Of GOP Takeover

Friday, 18 Jul 2014 12:55 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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The Republican Party's chances of retaking control of the Senate appear brighter after the Cook Political Report moved the race to succeed retiring Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin into the "toss up" category.

The race between Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley this month was ranked by Politico as the fifth most likely seat to change parties.

Since her victory in the June 3 GOP primary, Ernst, who is a member of the Iowa Senate, has gained momentum in fundraising and polling. Ernst defeated four other Republican candidates with 56 percent of the vote.

An NBC News/Marist Poll released July 16 reflected how close the race has become. The survey of registered voters showed a dead heat with both candidates garnering 43 percent of the vote. 14 percent of voters were undecided.

"The contest to replace five-term Sen. Tom Harkin is neck and neck. Iowa, right now, represents a chance for the GOP to pick up a Democratic seat in their quest to gain the majority in the U.S. Senate," Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said in a statement.

According to the poll, voters split fairly evenly along party lines, but Ernst was stronger among men while Braley had more support among women.

Ernst, a lieutenant colonel and battalion commander in the Iowa Army National Guard, beat Braley in second quarter fundraising by collecting $1.78 million, a majority of which was raised in the 26 days following her primary victory, according to the Ernst campaign.

Braley raised $1.3 million in the second quarter, but continues to hold a financial advantage with more than $2.7 million in cash on hand at the end of June, compared to Ernst's $1.1 million in cash, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Ernst gained national attention with a humorous, television ad comparing cutting pork with castrating hogs.

Ernst appears to also have attracted the attention of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose political action committee, the Senate Majority Fund, targeted Ernst in a recent radio ad linking her with the billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch.

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