PPP's newest Iowa poll finds that Republican recruiting failures in the US Senate race have given Bruce Braley a substantial early advantage. He leads by margins ranging from 9 to 13 points against the potential GOP candidates. It's 43/34 over Matt Whitaker, 45/33 over Joni Ernst, 44/32 over Mark Jacobs, 43/31 over Sam Clovis, and 45/32 over David Young.
Part of the reason for Braley's early leads is that he's a solid candidate. He has a +10 net favorability rating with 34% of voters rating him positively to 24% with a negative opinion. It also has a lot to do with the Republican candidates being so unknown at this point though. Whitaker is the best known but still has only 23% name recognition and from there it's 20% for Ernst, 19% for Clovis, 18% for Young, and 16% for Jacobs.
Because the Republicans are so little known, most of the undecideds in these match ups are Republicans and that gives their potential candidates more room to grow. But Braley leads with independents in every match up and that makes him the early favorite.
Terry Branstad has approval numbers that suggest he could be vulnerable in his reelection bid- voters are closely divided on him with 45% approving and 46% disapproving. Those numbers are down a good bit from what we found right before the election last November when he had a +12 approval spread at 48/36.
Nevertheless when it comes to head to head match ups Branstad doesn't appear to be in too much trouble. Former Governor Chet Culver, who is still unpopular with a 34/46 favorability rating, comes the closest to Branstad but nevertheless trails by 5 points at 47/42. Branstad leads by double digits against the rest of the Democrats that we tested- 12 points over Jack Hatch at 47/35, and 14 over Mike Gronstal and Tyler Olson at 50/36 and 47/33 respectively.
Other notes from Iowa:
-47% of Iowans think same sex marriage should be legal to 44% who believe it should be illegal. To give those numbers some context, in October of 2011 we found only 41% of voters in the state supported gay marriage with 48% opposed. So there's been a 10 point net shift in favor since that time. While seniors in Iowa continue to oppose gay marriage by a 21 point margin, 36/57, everyone else supports it by a 9 point margin at 50/41. 74% of Iowans grant that gay marriage being legal in the state has not had a negative effect on their lives.
-Iowa voters support expanded background checks for gun purchases by a 75/18 margin. There is strong support across party lines with Democrats supporting it 91/6, independents doing so 72/22, and Republicans favoring them 60/29. Grassley's vote against this popular measure may be part of the reason for his declining numbers.
-And finally although Iowa Republicans may not have a top tier contender in the Senate race, they're still better off without it being Steve King. Only 29% of voters in the state have a favorable opinion of him compared to 44% with a negative one.
Full results here