Bruce Braley at podium
Democratic Senate nominee Bruce Braley
Several recent polls have shown a close race in the U.S. Senate contest in the Hawkeye State, and Public Policy Polling adds another one. They find Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley leads Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst 42-41 in their contest to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, with third party candidates taking a combined 5 percent. Back in May before Ernst won the Republican nomination, Braley led 45-39. The undecides lean Democratic, voting for Obama by 13 points and self-identifying as Democrats by an 11-point margin.

As PPP points out, neither candidate is particularly popular. Braley spots a 37-41 favorable rating, a bit better than Ernst's 36-46 rating. While Braley has had some missteps on the campaign trail (most infamously derisively referring to would-be Republican Senate colleague Chuck Grassley as a "farmer from Iowa"), his unfavorables have risen at about as much as Ernst's have during this time. Both parties are advertising heavily here, and it looks like they've both been roughly equally successful at savaging their opponent.

As we've pointed out in the past, Democrats have largely stayed away from going after Ernst's crazier views. And Ernst has plenty: She's called for impeaching Obama, nullifying federal laws she doesn't like, opposed the farm bill, attacked the Clean Water Act, decried the idea of a federal minimum wage, called for privatization of young workers' Social Security accounts, and voiced fringe conspiracy theories about the United Nations.

Braley has begun going after Ernst for the minimum wage and has recently started criticizing her for calling for the elimination of student loans after taking them herself. However, it still feels like he's been ignoring some of her worst flaws. Ernst should be Democrat's dream opponent and while her unpopularity is encouraging, it's nowhere as low as it should be.

Maybe Braley and his allies are waiting till later to go after Ernst on the juicier stuff but it's worth noting that Harry Reid was hitting his nutty foe Sharron Angle as early as June of 2010. There's plenty of time left, but we'll see if Democrats are willing to do what it takes to stop Ernst, or if they leave the best material they have on the table until it's too late.

PPP also took a look at the gubernatorial contest but there isn't much to see there. Back in May, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad led Democratic state Sen. Jack Hatch by only 48-40, but now Branstad's up 48-35. Recent polls have shown Branstad up by similar margins. Outside groups like the RGA have spent here a bit, but it looks like this one will get left by the wayside. Branstad sports a 50-38 favorable rating and as long as he's that far above water he'll be hard to stop.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 10:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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