Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst, who was catapulted onto the national stage in March with a viral campaign ad claiming she had Washington pork-cutting skills
from her days castrating hogs, has more than a 10-point lead over her nearest primary rival, a new poll has found.
According to a Loras College Poll conducted May 12-13 of 600 likely Iowa voters, Ernst has 30.8 percent of the support, compared to businessman Mark Jacobs who has 19.3 percent support with less than three weeks to go until the June 3 election
Each of the three other candidates has less than 10 percent support, and over 29 percent of voters remain undecided, the poll found.
"State Sen. Ernst has captured momentum in this race and has opened up a substantial lead, according to our polling. Whether it was from her recent notable ad campaigns and endorsements, or not, she is the clear frontrunner now," said Christopher Budzisz, associate professor of politics and director of the Loras poll.
Just one month ago, separate polls put the mother, grandmother, and former farm girl in a slight lead over Jacobs, but within the polls' margins of error, though a poll released at the beginning of May gave her a 10-point advantage
The poll also found that since the organization's last survey in early April, Ernst's name recognition and favorability have increased dramatically. In the April survey, 52 percent had not heard of her compared to 24 percent in the current poll. Her favorability has increased from 24 percent to 51 percent since the last poll.
Ernst has chosen to focus on an attention-grabbing ad strategy to help overcome her financial disadvantage to Jacobs, a former Wall Street executive, who has spent at least $1.6 million of his own money on the campaign.
Last week, her campaign released a spot showing Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, stepping off her Harley-Davidson wearing a black leather jacket, and firing multiple precision shots
at a shooting-range target intended to represent Obamacare.
She also boasts of prominent endorsements, including former Alaska Gov. and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Winning the Iowa Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin has become the latest target of the GOP, which has become bullish about its Senate prospects in November.
However, regardless of the outcome of the Republican primary, a GOP victory against the presumptive Democratic nominee, Rep. Bruce Braley, a four-term congressman and former trial lawyer, still remains a reach.
"Regardless of who wins the GOP primary, the possibility of a GOP takeover of the U.S. Senate in the fall ensures the Iowa race will be of national interest," Budzisz said.
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