Good news continues to pile up for State Senator Joni Ernst. After nabbing prized conservative endorsements from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association, Ernst saw a new Loras College poll confirm that she is the front-runner in the five-way GOP primary for U.S. Senate. In mid-April, the inaugural Loras College poll found Ernst and Mark Jacobs essentially tied, but the new poll of 600 registered Republicansshows Ernst with 30.8 percent support to 19.3 percent for Jacobs, 9.5 percent for Sam Clovis, 7.3 percent for Matt Whitaker, and 2.3 percent for Scott Schaben. Even a small portion of the 29 percent undecided voters would push Ernst past the 35 percent threshold needed to win the primary outright. Full poll results are here (pdf); I’ve posted part of the polling memo below. I disagree with the methodological decision to include only registered Republicans in the poll sample, as a sizable number of Iowa no-party voters are likely to participate in the primary. On the other hand, it’s noteworthy that lists from which the poll sample was drawn “included only those who voted in the 2010 Republican primary or 2012 Republican primary.”
Hoping to blunt Ernst’s momentum, the Jacobs campaign rolled out its biggest endorsement yet last week, from Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. (Bleeding Heartland will cover that in more detail in a future post.) Ernst’s team was able to respond quickly with a press release hailing support from two past presidents of the Iowa Farm Bureau. I’ve posted that statement below.
Finally, the Sunday Des Moines Register endorsed Ernst yesterday. Although the Register’s editorial board disagrees with most of the policy stands they mentioned in the endorsement (such as repealing Obamacare, “absolutist position on the Second Amendment”), they appreciated Ernst’s “nuanced grasp of details” on several issues. More important, I suspect, the Register’s editors were motivated to pick the candidate they view as likely to win the primary. The commentary cited her “impressive statewide political campaign,” which has attracted “support from many establishment Republicans.” More excerpts are below.
Excerpt from Loras College poll memo, May 15:
“State Senator Ernst has captured momentum in this race and has opened up a substantial lead, according to our polling. Whether it was from her recent notable ad campaigns and endorsements, or not, she is the clear frontrunner now,” said Associate Professor of Politics and Director of the Loras College Poll, Christopher Budzisz, Ph.D.
Budzisz further commented that, “The Iowa GOP Senate Primary election appears to be a two person race at this point between Ernst and the trailing Jacobs, and it is highly unlikely that we are looking at a convention to decide the nomination.” In order to avoid a convention, at least one candidate has to receive 35 percent of the vote. These next final days will be critical for the candidates as they attempt to persuade the remaining undecided and persuadable voters.
“Regardless of who wins the GOP primary, the possibility of a GOP takeover of the U.S. Senate in the fall ensures the Iowa race will be of national interest,” Budzisz remarked. The Loras College Poll will monitor the race up to Election Day in November. For more on today’s announced results, please click here.
In the U.S. Senate GOP Primary, the results are:
Joni Ernst 30.8 percent
Mark Jacobs 19.3 percent
Sam Clovis 9.5 percent
Matt Whitaker 7.3 percent
Scott Schaben 2.3 percent
Undecided 29.2 percent
Budzisz offered the following additional observations from the survey results:
Ernst has dramatically increased her name recognition and favorables since the last Loras College Poll in early April (only 24 percent have not heard of her now compared to 52 percent in our previous poll), and on favorables she has increased to 51 percent from 24 percent.
Jacobs, who registered the highest name recognition in the previous Loras College poll (65 percent had heard of him in early April), continues with the highest name recognition (83 percent have heard of him now), but also the highest unfavorables at 14 percent to Ernst’s 10 percent in the current poll.
87 percent of GOP primary likely voters approve of the performance of Governor Terry Branstad. While Branstad has recently been under scrutiny in the media, his strong approval amongst GOP faithful remains unchanged from the April Loras College Poll (in April he received 86 percent approval).
Ernst campaign press release, May 15:
TWO FORMER IOWA FARM BUREAU PRESIDENTS ENDORSE JONI ERNST
Des Moines – Former Iowa Farm Bureau presidents Ed Wiederstein of Audubon and Craig Lang of Brooklyn today announced their support of mother, soldier and proven conservative, Joni Ernst, in the Republican primary for the United States Senate.
Both past Farm Bureau leaders remain active in production agriculture and in service to their communities and state. In separate statements, Wiederstein and Lang emphasized Joni Ernst’s record of public service, which is unparalleled among other candidates.
“She really is the best of all worlds for the people of Iowa,” said Ed Wiederstein, adding, “Her experience and background make her the best choice to represent our state. I don’t know what else we could want.”
Craig Lang said, “In my 10 years as Iowa Farm Bureau president, I always made growing and enhancing agriculture and rural communities a priority. Joni is the only candidate that I believe shares the same passion. I support Joni because she is a proven leader who can bring sanity to Bruce Braley’s record in Congress and bring value for the good of Iowans.”
In response to these endorsements, Joni Ernst added, “As the only rural candidate in this race, the men and women of our agricultural community are my friends, family, neighbors and constituents. Both Ed and Craig have meant so much to our state and to our agriculture community, and I could not be prouder to have them standing with me as work toward victory on June 3rd.”
Excerpt from the Sunday Des Moines Register’s May 17 endorsement of Ernst in the Republican primary:
For a politician appealing to Iowa voters, Ernst, 43, has a sterling resume and a compelling biography. […]
Ernst’s conservative credentials are impeccable as well. Her absolutist position on the Second Amendment earned her the NRA’s top rating and its endorsement. She would eliminate the U.S. Department of Education and would replace Obamacare with a “free-market solution” and the federal tax code with a flat tax. She believes federal rules and regulations are a burden. She supports amending the U.S. Constitution to require Congress to balance the budget.
Yet, unlike candidates who cannot go beyond campaign talking points, Ernst exhibits a nuanced grasp of the details. On the federal budget deficit, for example, she readily concedes that cutting federal discretionary spending won’t be nearly enough and that the biggest savings must come from Medicare and Medicaid. Ernst also admits the renewable fuels standard is the sort of federal mandate she philosophically opposes, but she said it should not be repealed until all other energy mandates and subsidies are eliminated.
She is equally nuanced on the question of applying a Christian litmus test to federal judicial nominees in fulfilling the Senate’s constitutional duty to give its advice and consent on the president’s appointees to the federal courts. Senators should apply no Bible-based litmus test, not least because the U.S. Constitution says “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
On this question, Ernst said her “bottom line” test is whether the nominee will abide by the U.S. Constitution. Ernst said nominees’ moral judgment should grounded in the Judeo-Christian values found in the Bible, but, when asked, she said she could vote to confirm judges who are not Christians and would not rule out an atheist.
Besides demonstrating leadership in her military career, Ernst has managed an impressive statewide political campaign. She has emerged from a crowded field with support from many establishment Republicans. […]
Yet, while she might come across in some ads as an Iowa version of Sarah Palin who rides a Harley and packs a gun in her purse, Ernst does not exhibit a Palinesque swagger in person. She talks of driving a hybrid car and of the values of simplicity learned from her mother, teaching Sunday school in her family church and taking pride in being a mother and grandmother. Though Ernst could be the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress, she says she cares about the same things as men.
Ernst is a smart, well-prepared candidate who can wrestle with the details of public policy from a conservative perspective without seeming inflexible. She would be a formidable opponent to Democratic candidate Bruce Braley in a contest that would give Iowans a clear choice in November.