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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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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    Senior Elections Writer, Daily Kos. 24, male, CA-18 (home and voting there), LA-02 (resident). Formerly known as Darth Jeff.

    by Jeff Singer on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 10:30:00 AM PDT

  •  I have to wonder if Braley is waiting until later (13+ / 0-)

    or if he's trying to play the "Iowa nice" card here and afraid that going to mean could backfire. The undecideds play well for him and he has been hitting Ernst on Social Security as well. This might be part of his plan to make himself look like the serious candidate in this race and Ernst is all show. Still though, while being on the right side of the issues, it's still a good idea to highlight how crazy your opponent is.

    Funny Stuff at http://www.funnyordie.com/oresmas

    by poopdogcomedy on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 10:39:50 AM PDT

    •  Or maybe he just sucks and doesn't know.... (6+ / 0-)

      ...what he's doing.

      "I know you cannot force people to care. Ukraine is far away for many, all have own problems. But even if cynical, realize problem will grow. It isn't only people like me, raised in a dictatorship, who don't want it to happen to others"-Gary Kasparov

      by LordMike on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 11:02:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree. Going with economic issues like (7+ / 0-)

        raising the minimum wage and protecting Social Security are issues that play well. He's had his bumps but he doesn't suck as a candidate. If anything, he learns from his mistakes. He hired a better ad person after the "chick" ad failed to do anything. The poll also showed that he does really well with youth and female voters. He's long been making refinancing student loans an issue in this race. So in conclusion: No, Braley does not suck and does know what he's doing, he just may not have anticipated that Ernst would make this race tighter.

        Funny Stuff at http://www.funnyordie.com/oresmas

        by poopdogcomedy on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 11:10:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Opposing farm bill in IA is like opposing SS in FL (5+ / 0-)

          Braley should be beating Ernst over the head w/ it at every turn. If he doesn't want to do the dirty work himself, then run nominally independent ads morning, noon, and night on the issue.  No sentient Iowan should be unaware of her position against the farm bill.

          It ain't rocket science.

          Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

          by RFK Lives on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 02:13:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  That's my guess (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        LordMike, Stude Dude

        'Adult in the room' bullshit running rampant.

        Take this lunatic on full force for God's sake.

        •  You do realize that outside of the Daily Kos (0+ / 0-)

          community, not everyone is focused on these races yet. You save your best stuff for September and October, that's where it all really begins.

          Funny Stuff at http://www.funnyordie.com/oresmas

          by poopdogcomedy on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 05:19:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  She should have been put away right... (0+ / 0-)

            ...after the primary. the fact that she's still in it at this stage is criminal negligence on Braley's part. He allowed her to define herself before he defined her. Gross negligence.

            "I know you cannot force people to care. Ukraine is far away for many, all have own problems. But even if cynical, realize problem will grow. It isn't only people like me, raised in a dictatorship, who don't want it to happen to others"-Gary Kasparov

            by LordMike on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 05:50:50 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Ah it's these type of dramatic comments I just (0+ / 0-)

              can't seem to get enough of. To be fair, Ernst wasntthe only nut job in the primary and it was a little hard to tell for a while who the winner of the primary would be.

              Funny Stuff at http://www.funnyordie.com/oresmas

              by poopdogcomedy on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 06:49:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  It's frustrating (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Midwesterners, NoBlueSkies

      We seem to be hearing about Braley "waiting until later" as much as we heard about Mighty Casey.

    •  nothing Iowa Nice about it... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BoswellSupporter

      I haven't seen a single positive ad from either side. Granted, I don't watch TV or listen to the radio all that much, so I might just be missing them. All the ads I'v seen though, have been overwhelmingly negative, and it's clearly having an impact on both candidates. Braley has been painted as city folk elitist what never got his hands dirty, and Ernst has been tagged as a big business puppet with a fondness for livestock castration.

      Could also be that I'm mostly seeing superPAC ads. I'm not sure I've seen any ads directly from Braley.

      Yet another case of candidates telling us why we shouldn't vote for their opponents while neglecting to mention why we should vote for them.

      "There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible." -Henry Ford

      by sixeight120bpm on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 03:58:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not impressed with Braley at all (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike, Zornorph

    I am just hoping Ernst will say more crazy things this fall.

  •  Which of these are real motivators? (6+ / 0-)
    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.
    What else do you want Braley to do here?

    Criticizing her criticism of the UN, even conspiracy-stuff really doesn't make a good commercial.  Non-starter.

    Opposing the farm bill.  Grassley voted against it too.  Non-starter thanks to Grassley backing her up.

    Nullification?  She never called for it.  Non-starter.

    Impeaching Obama.  Doesn't really make good commercial fodder this time around.  Mostly a non-starter.

    Minimum wage and Social Security....starters.   Good commercials...that's why Braley is already attacking on those issues right now.

    Despite what some around here think, Ernst is not another Sarah Palin.  Iowa Democrats have been most worried about her since she got in the race.  Most items on the list above are non-starters, not good commercial material, un-important, OR Braley is already criticizing her on these issues.

    Feel free to share what a Braley ad should look like.  I could very well be wrong, but it doesn't seem like the United Nations Agenda 21 is going to be a barn-burner this time around.

    •  you're right that she didn't call for (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoBlueSkies, Odysseus

      nullification, but she said that congress shouldn't pass laws that the states will just end up nullifying. Even though states can't do that. That's actually no better than actually calling for it, because it exposes her as being ignorant of how our political system works.

      We no longer ask if a man has integrity, but if he has talent. - Rousseau, Discourse on the arts and sciences

      by James Allen on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 11:31:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Semantic difference, but... (0+ / 0-)
        ...bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators—as senators or congressman—that the states would even consider nullifying.
        - Quote from Ernst

        "Even consider nullifying" is different than "states will just end up nullifying.

        Semantic-wise, it's pretty clever, because of plausible deniability.  If she truly was ignorant about how our system works, we would know it AND Braley would be running ad after ad.  He's not, because he knows that it really would be a stretch.  I don't think we can criticize Braley for this.  

        •  that's barely any difference, and (0+ / 0-)

          it's not clever, its ignorant.

          We no longer ask if a man has integrity, but if he has talent. - Rousseau, Discourse on the arts and sciences

          by James Allen on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 11:51:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  If Braley decides to do an 30 second ad (0+ / 0-)

            on this issue, then

            1.  I'll be impressed by his team's ingenuity
            2.  I'll stand corrected

            If it's barely a difference, and Braley doesn't run an ad, then barely a difference is enough

            I highly doubt that she believes in nullification.  If she does, then I stand corrected again, and then Braley can run an ad.  That doesn't appear to be the case right now.

    •  "Sarah Palin endorsed Joni Ernst." (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      La Gitane

      "Do you like Sarah Palin?  Ernst is your candidate.

      "Want sanity and real representation?  Braley for Senate."

      That's a start.

  •  Uphill since remarks on Farmers/Neighbor Chickens (5+ / 0-)

    The whole Iowa Senate Race has been beyond unfortunate from a Democratic perspective.   It seems that while Sarah Palin--oops, I mean Joni Ernst-- came off her Republican Primary race all ablaze and ready for battle, Braley has never recovered from his (and/or his wife's) early stumbles that were truly avoidable.  It will be just as devastating to lose Thomas Harkin's seat in Iowa to a rightwingnut as it was to lose Russ Feingold's seat in nearby Wisconsin to Teabagger Johnson.  

    Like so many other Dems outside of Iowa, I have contributed to Braley's campaign, but this is not a top notch campaign by any standards--and it should be by now!  Braley should be able to figure out how to "politely" reveal Ernst's major "flaws" without relying on the voter to figure them out by himself or herself.  For heaven sakes, this is a country that re-elected George W. Bush.  If Braley is waiting for voters to "intuitively" discover the real Joni Ernst, he better shake up his campaign staff yet again!!

  •  I have a feeling the Braley campaign (5+ / 0-)

    isn't going to go for the jugular like they need to.  I say this because I've seen many hopeful candidates take on Michele Bachmann without any negative ads being run against her.  I don't know if those campaigns ran message testing showing going hard negative against Bachmann would make us polite upper-midwesterners recoil, and maybe an ad that bullet points every stupid thing Bachmann had done would be too much.  But no attack ads at all?  There wasn't even one from the Tinklenberg campaign, after he raised $2m within a few weeks bc of Bachmann's anti-American rant.

    These campaigns have got to have information we're not privy to.  Or maybe this isn't a comparable situation as with Bachmann, you either loved her or hated her, period.  There was no gray area, no waffling, no amount of attack ads could change your mind.  And her winning margins shows this in that the GOP is guaranteed a floor in this district in the mid-to-upper 40's, which is how much she wins by.

    But everyone has reason to be concerned, and thinking "oh they're just waiting until the end of the throw the sink at her" may be wishful thinking.

  •  Braley needs to get his shit together (5+ / 0-)

    Apparently he thinks that no one will take Ernest seriously because she says crazy shit all the time and therefore he doesn't have to bring it up.

    Bullshit.

    He should be running ads non-stop that consist of nothing more than Ernest spouting off.

    “When I think of right wingers I think of terrorists who plot to kill and terrorize the lives of Planned Parenthood practitioners." ― Kurt Cobain

    by Jeff Y on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 01:38:05 PM PDT

    •  They have been (7+ / 0-)

      on what she's said about Sarah Palin, the minimum wage, and a few other things.   They plan to go after her on embryonic personhood support soon.

      “The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.” -The Doctor

      by KingofSpades on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 02:37:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It appears to me that voters are in a throw the (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Midwesterners, Jeff Y, LordMike, Zornorph

      bums out mood and who better to throw out than a boring Democratic Congressman who thought what you really wanted to know is why he became an attorney.  Iowans aren't stupid.  They know Ernst is wacky.  I don't think they care.  She's not in Congress.  

      Harkin was from near Des Moines and had a base of support there.  From what I've seen, Braley doesn't have the Des Moines media on his side and is falling flat right where I assume he has to win to swing the state.  

  •  It seems like he's gambling on Iowa's pattern (0+ / 0-)

    of electing a D to one Senate seat and an R to the other.  Many Iowans voted for both the ultraconservative Grassley and the very liberal Harkin.

    "Valerie, why am I getting all these emails calling me a classless boor?"

    by TLS66 on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 01:57:56 PM PDT

  •  Senate (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matt Z, katesmom

    'pubs will have a net gain of four seats, max.  Just watch.

    "The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little. " --Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by jg6544 on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 02:13:55 PM PDT

  •  I'm registered NP (No Party). I've gotten no (7+ / 0-)

    less than five glossy mailings from Americans For Prosperity raking Braley over the coals for his alleged Washington / elitist / non-Authentic-Iowa connections/perspectives.  Two phone calls from Ernst campaign and one mailing from Iowa Republican Party.

    Gotten a Big Zero contacts from Braley's campaign or supporters.  Zippo from the party.

    It's losing for lack of trying, if you ask me.

    A drowning man can not learn to swim. -- Chris Lonsdale

    by Rikon Snow on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 02:15:57 PM PDT

    •  Braley Campaign Lack of Urgency is Inexcusable (4+ / 0-)

      Wow, If you've received squat from Braley's campaign, while the Koch Addicts and everyone else on Ernst's side is sending you stuff and contacting you, that is inexcusable.  Underestimating your opponent, as others above have said Braley might be doing, is also totally naive and inexcusable in this day and age.

      But the Braley campaign --and the DSCC--are still asking all of us for money for this race.  What are they doing with it?

      I hope Braley and his staff are not so arrogant that they don't read our comments here--really!!!  We are saying these remarks because we honestly do not want to lose the Senate!!

    •  A one-person sample isn't sufficient. (0+ / 0-)

      This has never been mentioned in anything I've read on this race.  

      “The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.” -The Doctor

      by KingofSpades on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 02:40:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Iowa Democratic Party (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, KingofSpades

      has been running a "coordinated campaign" on behalf of Braley, the congressional candidates, Jack Hatch for Gov., and state legislative races. A full-time organizer is stationed in my small rural town serving 4 low-population counties. (Iowa counties are small.) People are knocking on doors and making phone calls. The model seems to be similar to the OFA operation 2 years ago. I'm not sure how the people on the walk lists and call lists are chosen. They seem to be people who are sporadic voters -- no Republicans and few Democrats who reliably vote every election. There's an emphasis on collecting absentee ballot requests.

  •  Huge mistake to wait to go after Ernst (6+ / 0-)

    on the Farm Bill and her nuttier ideas. When you define the opponent early they never get out of the hole.  And the longer you wait to introduce new material the more cynical the electorate becomes about everyone's claims, including yours, due to advertising fatigue.

    You can tell Monopoly is an old game because there's a luxury tax and rich people can go to jail.

    by Simian on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 02:28:41 PM PDT

  •  I've done some canvassing for Linn County Democrat (5+ / 0-)

    Braley has a real problem due to his 'farmer' comment. He needs to address that problem or he will not get votes that would otherwise go to him. In talking to democrats, they are out to get rid of Branstad, and willing to vote for Murphy to take Braley's place in the US House. But I've run into too many people who really took that comment in a negative way. You really don't want to insult farmers in a state that depends so much on farming income.

    He should have taken care of this immediately after it came out, because Ernst keeps bringing it up.

    "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." Henry Adams.

    by glendaw271 on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 02:33:39 PM PDT

  •  What Is It About Democrats? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike

    Is it just that they're nice guys?  Stop w/ the nice guy act. Take her out early.  Hit that farm bill & hit it hard.
    Go for the jugular, people.  That is, if you want to win.

  •  PPP also said that undecideds lean decidedly Dem (4+ / 0-)

    so there's more room for him to grow while Ernst is hamstrung by that and being more disliked.

    “The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.” -The Doctor

    by KingofSpades on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 02:57:59 PM PDT

  •  "Iowa nice" is working for Braley (0+ / 0-)

    in part because Joni Ernst is so mean-spirited

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 03:18:45 PM PDT

  •  Too late to dump this loser, sadly (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike

    Something about him bugs me.   Excessive lame-o-tude perhaps.  He's lucky the GOP didn't nominate a non-Palin-clone, if there are any in Iowa; he'd be done for right now.

  •  Ernst/Braley (6+ / 0-)

    Braley has to get in the same room as Ernst.  He has to properly question her on all these issues.  Iowans are zoning the ads out.  

    If they are paying attention, they see Joni Ernst sandbagging after floods, protecting soldiers and going to church.

    People are like "She can't be that crazy, I'm going to ignore those partisan ads."  Mostly everyone here swears by the strength of most ads, but I'm not convinced that they work quite as well as others.

    I gotta be honest Ernst comes across as the middle class candidate and Braley looks like the rich guy to a lot of people.  Sometimes perception is far more important than reality.  

    If you're going to do an ad though, put Harkin in there as I have said in the past.  

    Branstad mentions Joni Ernst all of the time on the stump.  I know that everyone thinks that the Senate Race will drive votes, but with Branstad and Grassley stumping for Young in the 3rd, Joni Ernst's numbers aren't going to be bad there.  Grassley and Branstand believe in absentee voting.  The GOP had candidates in 1998, 2002, and 2006 that believe absentee voting is akin to voter fraud.  They have changed their tune with the Branstad team steering the ship.  

    IA-2 Born, raised, currently reside.

    by BoswellSupporter on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 03:59:31 PM PDT

    •  The above comment is spot on (3+ / 0-)

      Midterm turnout + Grassley support + Branstad on the ticket + the candidate that Iowa Democrats did not want at all = a close race in a very light blue state.

      Remember this pre-primary website setup by Iowa Dems?
      http://www.establishmentapproved.com/
      It was the Iowa Democratic Party attempt at RFing the GOP primary...it wasn't very successful.  Now you see why they tried: They knew that the middle class/mother/soldier lines would work well well.

      Most political observers know that Grassley will stump for Ernst much more than Harkin will stump for Braley.  Even if Harkin campaigns (which he should), Grassley is about 10 points more popular than Harkin.  Grassley is a workhorse who visits every county every year.  Harkin, although a very progressive voice, seems to like spending most of his free time at his sweet Virgin Island home.

      Oddly enough, the biggest obstacle to this Branstand/Grassley/Ernst juggernaut is OFA (which a previous commenter mentioned).  However, they have a lot of work to do in this midterm if they're gonna get Braley to pull away.

      •  So frustrating... (0+ / 0-)

        I've seen our OH governor candidate get Dukakis'ed, and now we're about to see our Iowa candidate get Coakley'd and with a much worse candidate than Scott Brown was at the time (at least he wasn't a loon).  They missed the chance to define her out of the gate, and now they pretty much have lost it. They are going to have to get every vote out kicking and screaming. I hope they manage to make it. I'm not confident they will--what an awful campaign. You think that our side would have learned by now!!

        "I know you cannot force people to care. Ukraine is far away for many, all have own problems. But even if cynical, realize problem will grow. It isn't only people like me, raised in a dictatorship, who don't want it to happen to others"-Gary Kasparov

        by LordMike on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 09:04:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What are you talking about. You sound off on this (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LordMike

          They've done quite a bit against her.  And this poll indicates it's taking effect (she's -10 in favorables and slightly behind, with undecideds leaning blue).  She's more underwater than he is by 6%.  But I guess they didn't want to flood the airwaves from negative ads in the summer when people aren't fully tuned in.  And, as I read a couple weeks back, her support of embryonic personhood in 2013 will be used against her by Braley's campaign.

          Have you not seen the ads by the DSCC, Braley, NextGen (except the first one, which is likely just a web ad)?

          I browse twitter sometimes and his campaign and the Dem party there are putting out messages, vids, and other stuff about her positions.

          “The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.” -The Doctor

          by KingofSpades on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 09:14:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Just message (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LordMike

          BoswellSupporter and/or DCCyclone if you want a calm, reasonable, accurate view on this race.

          “The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes, very rarely, impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.” -The Doctor

          by KingofSpades on Tue Aug 26, 2014 at 09:16:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  All the negative TV ads are a tactic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LordMike

    to suppress the vote. People are saying, "I don't like either one. I'm not going to vote."

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