PPP's newest Iowa Senate poll finds a toss up race- Bruce Braley is at 42% to 41% for Joni Ernst with third party candidates splitting 5%. In a straight head to head the two are tied at 42%. This represents a significant tightening from PPP's last poll in May when Braley led 45/39, but is consistent with most public polling since the primary
This has become yet another key Senate race this year where the onslaught of negative advertising has left both candidates unpopular. Both Braley (from 58% to 78%) and Ernst (from 59% to 82%) have seen large increases in their name recognition since May. But in both cases their negatives are rising a lot faster than their positives. Braley's net favorability has gone from an even split at 29/29 to negative at 37/41. Ernst has gone from a -5 spread at 27/32 to a -10 spread at 36/46.
The good news for Braley in spite of his vanished lead is that the undecideds play well for him- they report having voted for Barack Obama by 13 points in 2012, and 35% are Democrats to 26% who are Republicans. They are also disproportionately female and young voters, groups that tend to play to Democrats' advantage. But clearly Braley has work to do.
One thing presenting a challenge for Braley is that Barack Obama- as he is in most of the states with key Senate races this year- is quite unpopular. Only 40% of voters approve of the job he's doing to 53% who disapprove, and with independents it's a 26/64 spread.
We found some tightening in the Governor's race earlier this year as Terry Branstad had a run of bad press but his lead now is back up to what we found in the early stages of the race. Branstad's at 48% to 35% for Democrat Jack Hatch with third party candidates combining for 5%. In a head to head Branstad hits 50% to 37% for Hatch. Branstad's approval numbers at 50/38 are the best we've found for him in a while.