Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Red Oak), the GOP’s senatorial nominee this cycle in the race to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), is a capable candidate with a strong biography. She faces a gaffe-prone Democratic opponent who is running against the 2014’s natural headwinds in his effort to keep Harkin’s seat for his party. Still, the polls show that this purple state continues to look more blue than red.
It has been a long time since a poll emerged showing Ernst with a lead over her opponent, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), much less a solid one. A CBS News/New York Times/YouGov poll taken over the course of most of July with an undisclosed sample showed the race statistically tied with Ernst in the lead, but the GOP standard-bearer has not enjoyed even a modest lead in any poll released since then. Until today.
According to the latest Quinnipiac survey, Ernst leads Braley with the support of a majority of Iowa voters at 50 to 44 percent. She has shrunk the gender gap among women to a practically imperceptible 6 points. Ernst as the support of 50 percent of independent voters to 43 percent who back Braley. What’s more, Quinnipiac found Ernst is just more likable than Braley.
“By a 45 – 39 percent margin, Iowa likely voters have a favorable opinion of Ernst.” Quinnipiac noted. “Braley gets a 38 percent favorability rating, while 41 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him.”
The good news in this poll for the GOP candidate just keeps coming:
• Ernst is honest and trustworthy, voters say 55 – 28 percent, well ahead of Braley’s
45 – 36 percent.
• Ernst cares about their needs and problems, voters say 52 – 37 percent, edging Braley’s
48 – 37 percent.
• Ernst has strong leadership qualities, voters say 60 – 25 percent, ahead of Braley’s
48 – 34 percent leadership measure.
Ernst is also benefiting from the desire among Iowa voters to express their dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama. 28 percent said that they intend to send a message to the president with their vote in November which would communicate their frustration with him and his administration. Only 12 percent said they will head to the polls to express their support for Obama.
This isn’t the first poll in a swing state from Quinnipiac this week which gives Republicans hope. In Colorado, where another marquee Senate race could determine which party controls the upper chamber, Quinnipiac found that incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is trailing his Republican opponent by 10 points at 40 to 50 percent. This pollster has not released their most recent survey of the Senate race in the Centennial State, but the political landscape appears increasingly favorable to the GOP in Q polls.
Quinnipiac’s narrative-shaping Iowa survey comes at a time when Senate forecasters were hedging on the idea that the GOP could pick up the Senate in November. A number of election modelers revised their forecasts this week to suggest that Senate control is a tossup, or even leaning toward Democrats. A few more surveys like this, and forecasters might come to believe that 2014 is going to be a GOP year after all.