US Senate

November 27th, 2013

U.S. Senate Polls Show Bad News for Braley; Mixed Results for BVP

He’s a sitting U.S. congressman, was long ago dubbed “the future” of the Iowa Democratic Party and is supposed to be the heir apparent to Tom Harkin. Democrats have handed him their U.S. Senate nomination, without the slightest bit of competition. Yet, despite all those advantages Bruce Braley brings into the U.S. Senate race, he holds a very narrow lead over a field of little-known Republicans.

A poll of 985 likely Iowa voters conducted on November 23 and 24 show Braley leading by as little as three points, within the margin of error. His biggest lead is only six points. Even more troubling for Congressman Braley is his inability to climb above 42 percent in the polling. The survey was conducted by Harris Polling and commissioned by Conservative Intel.

There are many reasons why this poll is bad news for the Braley campaign. First of all, between 75-58 percent of Iowans polled had never heard of the GOP candidates or  did not know enough about them to form an opinion.

Meanwhile, Bruce Braley is well known across Iowa. He is in the midst of his fourth term in Congress. He has campaigned all over the state this year, including a swing in western Iowa on Monday and Tuesday. Braley has visited Des Moines many times, received plenty of media attention and held high profile events, like his recent fundraiser headlined by Gabby Giffords.

Although Congressman Braley is well known across the state, he is not exactly well liked. This poll shows more than 60 percent of voters know enough about Bruce Braley to form an opinion of him, yet they barely favor the eastern Iowa liberal over a Republican they either have never heard of or do not know very well.

The poll also shows that Obamacare is very unpopular among Iowans. Only 34 percent of those polled approve of the president’s signature piece of legislation, while 54 percent disapprove.

The fact that Congressman Braley was a big proponent of Obamacare is likely a drag on his own approval numbers. When Iowans find out that he was the last congressman to speak on the U.S. House floor in favor of the bill before it was voted on, those numbers will likely fall even further.

The Republican candidates who were the most pleased with this poll are Matt Whitaker and Mark Jacobs. Whitaker trails Braley by just three points, 41-38. Despite officially entering the race just last week, Mark Jacobs polls the second best against Braley, 41-37.

The GOP candidates most likely to be disheartened by this poll are Joni Ernst and David Young. They both trail Braley by six points, 42-36 for Ernst and 41-35 for Young. Sam Clovis trails Braley 40-35. Candidate Scott Schaben was not included in the poll.

Overall, these numbers show that Bruce Braley is beatable by any of Republican candidates polled. If the election were held tomorrow, Braley would likely win, but we are still 11 ½ months from Election Day. Making up between three to six points in that amount of time is very feasible, especially if Obamacare continues to falter.

President Obama’s popularity has declined deeply in Iowa, along with Obamacare. 55 percent of Iowans disapprove of Obama’s job performance, according to the poll. Bruce Braley is now taking steps to distance himself from the president and the troubled healthcare legislation, but his unwavering support for its passage could spell doom for the Democrat’s senatorial hopes.

Another poll, conducted by the Citizens United Political Victory Fund, showed prominent Christian conservative Bob Vander Plaats well ahead of the Republican field in the U.S. Senate race. The CEO of The Family Leader organization would pick up 28 percent of the vote, according the poll. That puts him well ahead of the field of declared candidates.

The closest to Vander Plaats in the survey were Joni Ernst and Sam Clovis, who each garnered eight percent. Those numbers would seemingly serve as an impetus for Vander Plaats to enter the race. He says the decision on whether or not to run for the U.S. Senate will not come until next year.

Looking deeper into the numbers, 28 percent for Bob Vander Plaats is not exceptionally strong. He might be the most well known political figure in the state, other than our elected officials. BVP is a three-time candidate for governor, he is consistently involved in high profile campaigns and remains a constant presence in the media, both in Iowa and nationally.

Vander Plaats is significantly better known than any of the declared U.S. Senate candidates. There is no doubt he would be a formidable candidate in Republican primary. However, 28 percent still places BVP below the required 35 percent threshold necessary to win the primary outright.

The question is whether or not 28 percent is Vander Plaats’ ceiling or his starting point. Most Iowans have already formed their opinion of him. Even among Republicans, there are a significant number of voters who strongly dislike BVP.

The bigger issue for Bob Vander Plaats would be his viability in the general election. Along with being extremely well known, BVP is perhaps the most polarizing political figure in the state. His negatives in a statewide poll of Iowans are likely to be extremely high.

How well he would fare against Bruce Braley should be something Vander Plaats examines very closely before deciding to enter this race. The polls show that other, lesser-known Republicans could be very competitive with Braley. The same might not be true for BVP.

About the Author

Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor’s office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad’s 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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