On Saturday, the Des Moines Register released its final poll of the critical Senate race, showing Republican Joni Ernst with a commanding seven-point lead over Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley.
The state Senator and military veteran is favored by 51 percent of likely voters, against just 44 percent for trial lawyer Braley. The Democrat’s vote total is down from the last Register poll conducted in October. A GOP win for the open seat in Iowa is likely to cement Republican control of the Senate.
If Ernst prevails, she would replace outgoing Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin, who has served in the Senate since 1985. Joining Sen. Chuck Grassley in the Senate, an Ernst victory would mark the first time in almost 50 years that both of Iowa’s senators were Republican.
Grassley played a large role in Ernst’s surge in the polls. Earlier this year, Bruce Braley was caught on tape disparaging the Senate for being just a “farmer” on the Judiciary Committee. Among likely voters, 45 percent said the swipe was the worst mistake of the Braley campaign. It likely is a large reason Ernst leads Braley by 14 points on which candidate better reflects “Iowa values.” Her leads on that question on which candidate “cares more about people like you,” make it very difficult for Braley to prevail in an election just three days away.
Forged in the cauldron of the presidential caucuses, the Des Moines Register poll is one of the more respected polls gauging the political mood of the Hawkeye State. Only four percent of voters remain undecided and only seven percent of those who have made a choice say they could be persuaded to change their vote. This may be too steep of a hill for Braley, who was seen as the clear favorite at the beginning of the year, to surmount.
An Ernst win of this magnitude, though, could also impact the three tight races for House seats in Iowa. Braley’s open Congressional seat strongly leans Democrat, but, this year, the outcome is a toss-up. Braley even trails Ernst by three points in his home district, suggesting he could hurt the chances of a Democrat replacing him in the future.
Republicans also lead in the race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Doug Latham, and are waging a competitive fight against Democrat incumbent Rep. Dave Loebsack. With GOP Rep. Steve King cruising to reelection, Republicans have a chance to sweep the state Congressional delegation. In the last 60 years, that has happened only once, for two years, in the mid-90s.
Iowa launched the national political career of President Barack Obama, when he surprised pundits by defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2008 caucuses. The voters in the state seem poised to deliver a stinging rebuke to their political creation.