Elections

GOP’s Ernst pulls ahead in Iowa Senate race

Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst speaking in Des Moines, Iowa, June 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst speaking in Des Moines, Iowa, June 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) AP

Republican Joni Ernst has opened up a 6 percentage point lead over Democrat Bruce Braley in Iowa’s closely watched U.S. Senate race, according to a new Des Moines Register Iowa poll.

“The ground under Bruce Braley has shifted,” a Register analysis said.

The race to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has been regarded as too close to call. But the new survey, taken Sept. 21-24, found Ernst up 44 to 38 percent. Braley, a congressman, can still catch up, as 12 percent remain undecided. Republicans need a net gain of six Senate seats this year to win control of the Senate.

But the Register found : “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.” He also trails badly among rural voters.

At the Braley camp, campaign manager Sarah Benzing noted in a memo that the candidates debate Sunday, and the poll is “a snapshot of where the race begins.”

She touted the Democratic field operation as superior, and noted “as long as Democratic spending in Iowa matches the firepower that the other side is contributing to the air war, the Democratic ground game will help to ensure that Iowans turnout to elect Bruce Braley.”

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