44% Ernst (R) - 38% Braley (D)
Good news for a GOP Senate takeover.
(Des Moines Register) - The ground under Bruce Braley has shifted.
The Democratic U.S. Senate candidate is 6 points behind his GOP rival, Joni Ernst, according to The Des Moines Register's new Iowa Poll of likely voters.
Ernst leads 44 percent to 38 percent in a race that has for months been considered deadlocked. She leads nearly 4-1 with rural voters, and is up double digits with independents.
"Very interesting, and good news not just for Ernst but also for the GOP's chances of taking the U.S. Senate," said national political prognosticator Larry Sabato of "Sabato's Crystal Ball."
Just seven months ago, political analysts considered Braley almost a shoo-in for a seat held for 30 years by liberal Democrat Tom Harkin.
Still, the 6-point deficit isn't insurmountable with 37 days left until the Nov. 4 election, political analysts say. Twelve percent of likely voters remain undecided.
Some of the vulnerabilities for Braley, a lawyer and eight-year congressman: He isn't winning in his home district, in northeast Iowa. Two-thirds of likely voters think it's a problem that he missed a large percentage of Veterans Affairs Committee meetings in the U.S. House. Fifty-nine percent think his role in crafting the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, is a problem.
And he's suffering badly with rural voters. Only 15 percent support him compared with 58 percent for Ernst. One potential reason: Two-thirds of likely voters who live in the country are bothered by a remark he made about Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley that's been perceived as besmirching farmers.
"I think he has an attitude about the voters and life in general which was indicated by what he said about Chuck Grassley," said Democrat Dianna Fuhrmeister, a poll respondent who grows garden vegetables for a living in rural Iowa City. "He thinks he knows better than us."
Braley's remark, made at a private fundraiser in Texas last winter, seemingly disparaged Iowa's popular 33-year senator for being a farmer, not a lawyer. Braley apologized to Grassley after the caught-on-tape remark was released in March. But that gaffe and others prompted the national political news outlet Politico last week to slot Braley's campaign as No. 1 on its list of "the worst campaigns of 2014."
Fuhrmeister, who is registered as a Democrat but considers herself an independent, said her mind is made up to vote for Ernst, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard.
"She's the veteran. She seems to have common sense," she said.