PPP's newest Iowa poll finds that the US Senate race has narrowed since the summer, but that Democrat Bruce Braley continues to hold a clear lead over all of his Republican opponents. In July Braley led the GOP field by an average of 11 points. Now it's an average of 7 points: he leads Matt Whitaker 40/34, Joni Ernst and Mark Jacobs 41/35, and Sam Clovis 42/34. At least part of Braley's leads at this point is a product of name recognition- 56% of voters know enough about him to have formed an opinion, where none of the Republican hopefuls have more than 25% familiarity.
The Republican primary for Senate is still pretty wide open, with 42% of voters undecided. Mark Jacobs has opened up a small lead at 20% to 13% for Joni Ernst, 11% for Matt Whitaker, 8% for Sam Clovis, and 3% each for Paul Lunde and Scott Schaben. Even with Republican primary voters the highest name id any of the candidates has is 32% for Jacobs.
There's a pretty clear reason why the Senate race has tightened over the last seven months. Barack Obama's approval rating in the state has dropped a net 10 points compared to the summer, from a -4 spread at 46/50 to now a -14 one at 40/54. That decline in the overall political climate for Democrats is having an effect in races like Iowa and Michigan where the actual candidates aren't particularly well known.
In the Iowa Governor's race Terry Branstad continues to have approval numbers that aren't terribly impressive, but still leads by double digits for reelection against a Democratic opponent who isn't particularly well known. Branstad has a 45/40 approval spread and leads Jack Hatch 48/36, the same 12 point lead he held in July. Hatch only has 31% 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.
Full results here