Branstad, Braley Continue to Lead in Iowa Races

By James Q. Lynch, Reporter

DES MOINES, Iowa - Gov. Terry Branstad and U.S. Rep Bruce Braley continue to lead their respective races for governor and U.S. Senate, according to a poll out this morning.

However, Branstad's numbers "aren't terribly impressive" for a four-term incumbent being challenged by a Democratic opponent who isn't particularly well known, according to the Public Policy Polling numbers released this morning.

And Braley's lead over a field of Republicans seeking the seat held by fellow Democrat Sen. Tom Harkin, has seen his lead over the Republican field narrow, PPP reported. His lead is down to 7 percentage point from 11 in July.

Braley leads Matt Whitaker 40 to 34 percent, state Sen. Joni Ernst and Mark Jacobs 41 to 35 percent, and Sam Clovis 42 to 34 percent.

PPP' Director of Polling Tom Jensen attributes at least part of Braley's leads to the fact 56 percent of those polled know enough about him to have formed an opinion, where none of the Republican hopefuls have more than 25 percent familiarity.

The Democratic polling firm also attributes the tightening in the Senate race to the unpopularity of President Obama's health care plan, which Braley supports.

Obama's approval rating in Iowa has dropped a net 10 points compared to the summer of 2013 -- from a -4 spread at 46 to 50 percent to a -14 spread of 40 to 54 percent, PPP found. That decline in the overall political climate for Democrats is having an effect in races like Iowa where the actual candidates aren't particularly well known, Jensen said.

In the GOP, the primary race is wide open with undecided leading.
PPP found Mark Jacobs has opened up a small lead at 20 to 13 percent for Ernst, 11 percent for Whitaker, 8 percent for Clovis, and 3 percent each for Paul Lunde and Scott Schaben. Even with Republican primary voters the highest name ID any of the candidates has is 32 percent for Jacobs.

In the governor's race, Branstad has a 48 to 36 percent lead over Sen. Jack Hatch, the same as in July, according to PPP.

Hatch only has 31 percent name recognition and the undecideds in the race skew Democratic so just like the Senate race could get better for the Republicans as the candidates get better known, this one could get better for the Democrats, Jensen said.

Branstad doesn't have much to worry about when it comes to his Republican primary challenger, former presidential candidate Tom Hoefling. Hoefling has only 12 percent name recognition and trails Branstad 70 to 11 percent, according to PPP.

It probably wouldn't matter even if there was a more high-profile person challenging Branstad in the primary, Jensen said. His 72 to 16 percent approval spread with primary voters suggests he's in more solid standing with the GOP base now than he was when Bob Vander Plaats gave him a scare in 2010.

For more, visit http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2014/02/split-decision-in-iowa-races.html.
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