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Democrat Leads in New Iowa Senate Race Poll

Braley is an Iowa Democrat. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A new poll shows Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat, has opened up a lead over his Republican opponent Joni Ernst in the battle for Iowa's open Senate seat.  

The Loras College poll of likely voters found Braley at 45.3 percent and Ernst at 40.5 percent. Just over 14 percent of respondents said they were undecided.  

The race for retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat is one of the most hotly contested in the country, and the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates it as a Tossup . Senate Republicans must pick up a net of six seats this November to win control of that chamber, and Iowa plays a prominent part in the GOP's math to accomplish that.  

But the new Hawkeye State numbers show a shift from Loras College's last poll in June, just after Ernst's resounding victory in the Republican primary. That survey showed Ernst leading Braley, 48 percent to 41.7 percent.

This month's poll found people now have a more favorable view of Braley. Among people who had heard of him, 36.3 percent had a favorable view of him, while 33.7 percent had an unfavorable view.  

Republicans' major argument  has been that Braley is out of touch with Iowa values. They have tried to paint him as an elitist, pointing to his derogatory "farmer" remarks about GOP Sen. Charles E. Grassley, and a disagreement with a neighbor over chickens .

Ernst's favorability was slightly upside down, with 36.9 percent saying they had a favorable view of her and 39.5 percent having an unfavorable view of her.

The poll surveyed 1200 likely voters from Sept. 2 through Sept. 5 using live interviewers and reaching respondents on both landlines and cell phones. The poll has a margin of error of 2.82 point margins.  

This is the first year that Loras College has polled Iowa elections and, as a result, they do not have a track record on polling congressional races.  

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