A new Iowa poll published on Saturday by the Des Moines Register gives Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst a 7-point lead over Democrat Bruce Braley, suggesting that Republicans may win a race deemed critical to the party's takeover of the U.S. Senate.
J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the poll, told the paper, "This race looks like it's decided." 51 percent of likely voters support Ernst, the poll found, the biggest lead the Iowa state senator and former military leader has received among the polls conducted this fall, the paper's report noted. Her opponent, Democrat Bruce Braley, received 44 percent. The previous DMR poll, released on Oct. 13, gave Ernst a 1-point lead. Another boost for Ernst was Independent voters choosing her over Braley, 51 percent to 39 percent.
Braley's standing among voters has been slipping in recent weeks. The latest DMR poll even showed him losing his home congressional district by three points, a region that tends to lean left. "None of this looks good for him," Selzer said. Politico reported that when the poll was released, Braley was at an event with former President Bill Clinton who was urging voters to support the congressman and trial lawyer. Some Democratic operatives attending the event in Braley's hometown appeared "crestfallen" after apparently receiving the news, Politico reported.
The poll attributed Ernst's boost to voters viewing her as strong on national security issues, and being better able to address Social Security, government gridlock. The survey also found that voters see Ernst as better reflecting Iowa values. "She's more of a regular, down-to-earth person," the paper wrote.
Earlier on Saturday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned Democrats that they couldn't afford to lose Iowa, as it would hand Republicans control of the upper chamber. "If we win Iowa, we're going to do just fine," he said. "Iowa is critical. There's no other way to say it." He also criticized Ernst as extreme. "Think of what that would mean for our country," he said of her potential win.
The race to fill the seat of outgoing Sen. Tom Harkin (D) has been one of the most competitive of the election year. Earlier polls showed the two neck-and-neck. But fear has grown among Democrats that the party would lose Iowa, one of the key battlegrounds in the election.
While many Senate races remain very close, the scales have been tipping toward a Republican takeover of the Senate. With Tuesday's election imminent, HuffPost Pollster's forecast shows Republicans with a 69 percent chance of taking the upper chamber.
The DMR poll was conducted Oct. 28-31 and is based on telephone interviews with 701 Iowans ages 18 or older who say they have already voted or will definitely vote in the 2014 general election. The poll had a 3.7 percentage point margin of error.