New #IASen poll: Obamacare’s dead weight could tip the scale in Iowa Senate race

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Published on November 25, 2013

CaptureIowans, who played a vital role in elevating Barack Obama to the presidency, don’t think highly of his performance now, nor of Obamacare. Their attitude could help turn the state’s sleeper of a 2014 Senate race into a real GOP pickup opportunity, a new Conservative Intel poll suggests.  

The survey of 985 likely Iowa voters, conducted on November 23 and 24 by Harper Polling, finds the likely Democratic nominee, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, with a slim lead against all comers. But despite a near-total lack of name recognition among the Republicans in this race, each of them holds Braley in the low 40s, and some trail within the margin of error in head-to-head matchups. 

The poll also finds a slight Republican lead on the generic Senate ballot, 42 to 38 percent.  

Contrast this to July, when Public Policy Polling tested Iowa’s open-seat Senate race and found Braley winning each matchup by between 9 and 13 points, and sitting comfortably in the mid-40s.

The Iowa race has been categorized as a Republican recruitment failure, and the new Conservative Intel poll bolsters that characterization. For each of the five GOP candidates tested, between 75 and 85 percent of likely Iowa voters have either “never heard of” them or have yet to form an opinion. But some of these no-name candidates are already nipping at the heels of Braley, who has a favorable/unfavorable rating of 33% to 28%.

  • Against former U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker, Braley leads 41 to 38 percent.
  • Against business executive Mark Jacobs, Braley leads 41 to 37 percent.
  • Against radio host Sam Clovis, Braley leads, 40 to 35 percent.
  • Against State Sen. Joni Ernst, Braley leads 42 to 36 percent.
  • Against former Chuck Grassley staffer David Young, Braley leads 41 to 35 percent.

For any given GOP candidate, between 53 percent (Jacobs) and 65 percent (Young) of voters have never even heard of them; in each case, an additional 20 to 30 percent have heard of the candidate but have yet to form an opinion. In contrast, just over 60 percent of voters already have an opinion of Braley.

The candidates in this race are vying to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. This is the first Conservative Intel poll of this race, so there are no trends to share over time. But this race has been widely assumed to favor Democrats, and largely overlooked in favor of more promising GOP pickup opportunities in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Alaska.

If the Iowa race seems closer than conventional wisdom dictates, this poll contains hints that the latest round of Obamacare implementation, which began October 1, could be playing a role.

The poll finds that likely Iowa voters disapprove of Obamacare, 54 to 34 percent, and that 52 percent say they are more likely to vote for an Obamacare opponent, versus 39 percent who say they are more likely to vote for an Obamacare supporter.

President Obama himself suffers a 21-point approval deficit in Iowa, with 55 percent disapproving of his performance and only 34 percent approving.

Later this week: Crosstabs, and an early look at Iowa for the 2016 presidential race, primary and general.

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