Poll: Joni Ernst Opens Up 18-Pt Lead in Iowa

Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst has opened up an 18-point lead and is on pace to win the nomination on Tuesday, according to the results of a Des Moines Register poll three days before the primary.

Ernst, who has been endorsed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and became a household name with her hog castration ad, has 36% in the poll, which was released on Saturday evening. Mark Jacobs, the more liberal businessman who has poured millions of his own money into the race, has 18%. A candidate needs to receive more than 35% of the vote to avoid a nominating convention, which would favor Sam Clovis and Ernst. 

Former U.S. Attorney and Iowa football player Matt Whitaker, whom Texas Governor Rick Perry endorsed, has 13% while Clovis, the former talk radio host who has been endorsed by social conservatives like the Family Leader's Bob Vander Platts, has 11%. Scott Schaben, who has failed to gain much traction, has 2%. 

J. Ann Selzer of Selzer & Co., which conducts the Iowa Poll, said there may still be some fluidity in the race because 16% of likely GOP primary voters remain undecided and nearly 75% of voters "could be persuaded to vote for someone else."

According to the Register, "a bad sign for Jacobs" is that "his numbers dropped through four days of polling." 

Ernst, who followed up her castration commercial with another in which she rides a Harley to a shooting range, has received support from across the GOP spectrum. The Chamber of Commerce and Mitt Romney have endorsed the state senator and Iraq War veteran. But so have the Senate Conservatives Fund, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Palin, who remains one of the most popular politicians in Iowa on both sides of the aisle and has campaigned for Ernst. A recent poll by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling group found that 90% of even "somewhat liberal" voters in Iowa viewed Palin favorably.

And Ernst's broad swath of support shows in the Iowa Poll. According to the Register, Ernst's lead "is significant across all demographics, factions and geographies," and she "does well with both men and women, with every age group, with the tea party and born-again Christians and with voters in every congressional district, including the 4th, Iowa's most conservative district."

The Republican nominee will face Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) in the fall to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) in a state in which 53% of voters disapprove of President Barack Obama. Braley may have instantly made the race competitive when he denigrated Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) as just "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school" at a fundraiser with wealthy Texas trial lawyers. 

After video of Braley's remarks surfaced, David Yepsin, the longtime authority on Iowa politics, told the Register that Braley's remarks "will hurt him," especially because Grassley is a "political icon."

"There are a lot of people who don’t have law degrees," he said then. "It comes off as elitist."

The Register's Iowa Poll surveyed 400 likely GOP primary voters from May 27-30, and it has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.


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