US Senate

April 10th, 2014

Poll Shows Ernst Claiming Lead in U.S. Senate Primary

Joni Ernst has captured the momentum in Iowa’s Republican U.S. Senate primary, according to a Suffolk University poll released Wednesday. The poll shows Ernst edging Mark Jacobs 25-23 among primary voters.

This is the first poll Suffolk University has conducted on the race so it is difficult to determine if their survey is an outlier or an actual sign of movement in the crowded GOP field. Either way, the Ernst campaign was quick to trumpet the good news, as did Sarah Palin. The former Alaska governor endorsed Ernst two weeks ago.

“A new poll out today shows momentum for my campaign is continuing to pick up steam,” Ernst wrote on social media. “As a result of your support, we are now leading the Republican primary field for U.S. Senate!”

Other recent polls have shown Ernst trailing Mark Jacobs by seven to 11 points. The Iowa state senator’s sudden vault to the front shows that Ernst’s risky hog castration ad “Squeal” was a smart move. Although the campaign made just a small ad buy in Des Moines, the video went viral on YouTube and picked up national coverage on cable news networks and late night comedy shows.

Mark Jacobs has trounced the field in fundraising, with some help from his personal bank account, and has been running TV and radio ads for months. Those bolstered his name I.D. and helped him lead the field early on. However, the Jacobs campaign needs to supplement its air cover with a strong grassroots ground game.

The Jacobs campaign has spent an estimated $900,000 on TV and radio ads, compared to just $9,000 for Ernst, so there’s no question Ernst is getting more use out of her advertising dollars so far.

However, with less than two months until the June 3 primary, no candidate in the race has come near the required 35 percent threshold necessary to avoid sending the nomination to a convention battle.

Additionally, in a head-to-head matchup, the Suffolk poll shows Mark Jacobs faring a little better against Democrat nominee Bruce Braley than Ernst does. Braley leads all Republican candidates, besting Jacobs 37-31 and Ernst 38-30.

Congressman Braley’s favorability rating is only 34 percent, compared to 27 percent unfavorable. 17 percent of those polled had never heard of the four-term congressman.

Since this is the first Suffolk poll on Iowa, it is difficult to determine if Braley’s comments denigrating Senator Grassley and Iowa farmers had a negative effect on his poll numbers.

The Suffolk poll was especially bad news for the Matt Whitaker campaign. It shows the former U.S. attorney in fourth place among the five candidates, at just 4%. Whitaker had been a solid third place in other polls. Former talk radio host Sam Clovis now sits in third place, at 7%, according to the Suffolk poll. A whopping 40% of Republican primary voters remain undecided, which means this race is very fluid.

Clovis is dealing with some trouble of his own due to comments made to a Carroll newspaper reporter. Clovis indicated that criminalizing women her undergo abortions might be “a bridge too far”.

Some pro-lifers backing Clovis expressed outrage at the comments and the campaign spent Wednesday trying to clean up the mess. Liberals are attacking Clovis for his claim in the same interview that it would be more difficult to impeach President Obama due to his race.

The Suffolk poll shows Governor Branstad with a 10-point lead over Democrat Jack Hatch in the gubernatorial race, 42-32. 49 percent of those polled view Branstad favorably.

Other findings show an overwhelming number of Iowans, 67 percent, support Voter ID. 49 percent believe Obamacare is a bad law for Iowa. The Suffolk University survey polled 800 likely voters between April 3 and April 8.

Not appearing in the poll is Bob Quast, who is running a write-in effort for the Democrat U.S. Senate nomination. Quast’s web ad is trumping even Ernst’s “Squeal” ad for outlandishness, though they both refer to severed testicles. Yes, really.

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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