Ernst Has 2-Point Edge on Braley in Iowa Senate Race: Poll

The Republican draws 48 percent to the Democrat's 46 percent, a Quinnipiac University survey shows.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Senate race in Iowa remains extremely close as the campaign heads into its final days, with Republican Joni Ernst at 48 percent and Democrat Bruce Braley at 46 percent, a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows.

Just 4 percent of likely voters remain undecided in a race that will help determine control of the Senate. The results are virtually unchanged from a poll the university released in mid-October, and are within the survey's 3.2 percentage point margin of error.

In a potential edge for Ernst, independent voters are backing the state senator over Braley, a member of the U.S. House, 47 percent to 41 percent. Independents are Iowa's largest voting bloc.

The race is attracting millions of dollars from outside groups and some of the biggest names in national politics. Vice President Joe Biden and potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are both scheduled to appear in Iowa next week to boost Braley.

Reflecting a reverse gender gap that has tracked the race, women in the poll back Braley 53 percent to 40 percent, while men back Ernst 55 percent to 38 percent. Braley, meanwhile, leads 58 percent to 37 percent among those who have already voted.

“Throughout the campaign, Senator Ernst has had an edge on likability,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll, said in a statement. “If she makes it across the finish line first that may be the key. Her campaign theme that she is the ‘farm girl next door’ who made good has taken her from unknown state legislator to a serious shot at the United States Senate.”

By a 48 percent to 42 percent margin, Iowa likely voters have a favorable opinion of Ernst. Braley gets a split 43–43 percent likability score.

“Every vote is going to matter in this election cycle,” Ernst told several hundred Republicans gathered last night in Wilton, Iowa. “We need every single vote.”

During a later appearance outside a building on the University of Iowa campus, Senator Rand Paul promoted Ernst and, more subtly, his own potential 2016 Republican presidential campaign.

“Joni Ernst will make a much better senator than Bob Bailey,” Paul joked, a refrain Republicans have used to mock the stumbles first lady Michelle Obama had in pronouncing the Democrat's name.

Protesters greeted Ernst and Paul outside the campus building, yelling such things as “raise the wage,” a reference to an increase in the federal minimum wage that Ernst opposes. Her supporters chanted back “Joni,” to counter the opposing voices.

In Iowa's race for governor, incumbent Republican Terry Branstad, has a 55 percent 37 percent lead over state Senator Jack Hatch, the Democratic challenger.

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