Braley gets the Best of Ernst in Second U.S. Senate Debate

Braley DebateState Senator Joni Ernst and Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley squared off in the second of their three scheduled debates over the weekend.   Round one was a clear victory for Ernst. Not only was she relaxed and confidant, but she handled the issue set of the debate with ease. Braley, on the other hand, was a nervous mess in the first debate. Despite an issue set that clearly favored the four-term Congressman, he failed to make headway against Ernst. Worse yet, Braley looked un-prepared and nervous throughout the first debate.

Saturday’s debate at St. Ambrose University in Davenport couldn’t have been more different from the first debate between Ernst and Braley. Even before the debate began, one could see that Braley was eager for his second opportunity to debate Ernst. As the candidates took the stage and stood behind their lecterns, Braley was all business. He spent most of the five to six minutes before the debate officially started jotting down notes on the pad of paper provided for each of the candidates.

It didn’t take long to realize that the Bruce Braley who was on the stage on Saturday night wasn’t the same guy Ernst easily handled in their first debate. This time,Braley was a well-prepped, razor-sharp trial attorney who was ready to make his case against Ernst to the jury, or in this case the voters of Iowa.

Where Ernst was able to easily stick to her talking points on issues in the first debate, on Saturday night, the questions asked of the candidates by a panel of eastern Iowa journalists were either more difficult or demanded unique answers. Multiple times in the debate, the candidates were asked questions that were submitted by residents.

One question was from a man currently on Obamacare who wanted to know what happens to him if the law is repealed. Ernst answered the question by talking about how Obamacare costs jobs, is an additional tax, and puts bureaucrats in control of one’s healthcare decisions, not patients and their physicians. Ernst’s response, while accurate, avoided the person’s question, and in doing so came off as cold and uncaring to this person’s situation.

Later in the debate, the candidates were asked to speak from the heart about the direction of the county.. Ernst said the reason she is running is because of how bad thing are going in America. She then transitioned and talked about how well things are going in Iowa under Governor Terry Branstad. Again, this individual wasn’t looking for a political answer from the candidates, but once again, Ernst didn’t really answer the question that was asked of her.

What’s frustrating is that in both instances, Ernst could have easily scored points by addressing these questions head on instead of trying use each question as an opportunity to critique Braley. Ernst’s ads on Social Security portray her as a kind and caring individual. People who meet her in person come away with the same impression. Yet, in this debate, by sticking to her talking points, she came off as somewhat cold and impersonal.

There were also a number of incidents in the debate where Braley just got the better of her. On the first topic of the debate, environmental issues, Ernst scored some points when she painted Braley as a flip-flopper on the Keystone pipeline, but once the questions turned to her previous statements about wanting to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency, she was in trouble.

First, Braley did a good job of explaining why he was initially was supportive of Keystone, but the more he learned about it, the more he didn’t like. Now, you may disagree with Braley’s position on this issue, but by taking the time to explain his thought process on the matter, he actually came off as being thoughtful, not as a flip-flopper. He also keenly used the issue to needle Ernst about her ties to the Koch brothers, since big oil proponents are the ones who are really pushing for the pipeline.

Second, the entire discussion about Ernst wanting to abolish the EPA was cringe-worthy to watch. Again, Ernst makes valid points about the problems of with the EPA, but those are lost when the conversation evolves into numerous questions about how states can regulate a polluter who may not be located in their state, or who regulates federal waterways like the Mississippi River, or what about the Great Lakes that border another country, let alone multiple states.

As Braley did all evening, he explained the history of why the Clean Water Act and why it was necessary, which included the fact that President Nixon signed it into law. Without getting personal, Braley was able to paint Ernst not only as an extremist like many of the ads that Democrat groups are running against her, but by taking the time to add some depth the conversation, he came off as being better prepared than Ernst.

Even when the debate focused on topics that should be in Ernst’s wheelhouse, Braley was able score points. When discussing foreign affairs and whether or not ground troops are necessary to combat ISIS, Braley was able to score points in the debate. Ernst used the question to once again let people know that she has served in the military and led troops in Iraq. She also laid out her three criteria on sending troops into battle. First, there must be actionable intelligence. Second, there must be a clearly defined mission. And third, we must be willing to continue to care for our soldiers when they return home.

Braley agreed with Ernst’s stated criteria but added that it’s important to convince the American people that this action is necessary, and we must address the greater problem in the reason that lead to ISIS getting a stronghold. Ernst would later go after Braley on voting against funding any military action in Iraq. Ernst scored points with the attack on Braley’s vote, but again he provided quality and depth to the discussion.

Ernst gave two answers in the debate that are giving some conservative Republicans heartburn. Braley was asked about his proposal to raise that cap on Social Security taxes for people who make more than $117,000. Braley clearly knew he was walking on dangerous ground, but he said that he thinks millionaires and billionaires should have to pay social security tax on all their income. Even though Braley’s Social Security tax increase fits with the populist theme of his campaign, Ernst and the Republicans could have branded him as a tax raiser had she not said that she too thinks the idea should be looked at.

Ernst also said that she agreed with Braley on not repealing President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Many conservatives oppose DACA and believe the program is what caused many of the unaccompanied children of Central America to illegally enter the county, which has caused a humanitarian crisis along the U.S./Mexico border.

After the debate, the Ernst campaign emailed out a short video that contained what they believed was the highlight of the debate. It was video of Ernst bringing up yet again the disparaging remarks that Braley said about Sen. Chuck Grassley and farmers. The Republicans in the crowd loved it, just like they did when she used a similar line of attack in the previous debate.

Republicans have gotten a lot of mileage out of the recording of Braley at a Texas fundraiser, but I think debates and campaign needs to be about more than a year old video clip and his neighbors’ wandering chickens. I score debates like a boxing match that doesn’t end in a knockout. Issue after issue, I had a hard time awarding points to Ernst of Saturday night. Yes, she got in some good shots, but round after round I thought Braley got the best of her.

The good news for Ernst, is that she is still leading the U.S. Senate race. After two debates, each candidate has a clear win under their belts. I also think Ernst clearly has the narrative on her side. Braley’s repeated gaffes and stupid comments have taken a toll. Simply put, even though he was a much better debater on Saturday night than he was two weeks earlier, he’s still not likable.

I also don’t blame Ernst for her “lackluster” debate performance. I think this was a classic case of her advisors prepping her too much. She was prepared to go into this debate as an attack dog, and that’s exactly how she preformed. That was most evident in her closing remarks. There were numerous times when the two candidates had agreed with each other, but Ernst began her 90-second closing remarks by saying it’s clear that she and her opponent don’t agree on anything.

I think Ernst’s handlers got it all wrong. Braley and all the out-of-state political groups that are spending millions of dollars running negative ads against her are trying to sell the voters on an image of Ernst that she’s in the pocket of special interest, that she’s too extreme for Iowa, and that she’s basically evil.

Unlike the first debate where Ernst came off like she does in person, as a likable, all-Iowa farm girl, in this debate, she was overtly political. I know all the political advisors want their candidates to land a punch that makes their opponent cringe, but it’s equally important to come off to voters as someone they can relate to. Ernst had opportunities to do that in Saturday’s debate, but she opted to attack Braley instead. That is one of the main reasons why she lost the debate.

A Braley Charm Offensive? Good Luck With That – The Weekly Roundup

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 9.00.22 PMFor the first time since May, Congressman Bruce Braley is running a television ad that features him talking to the camera.  Typically, candidates running for a big statewide office like the U.S Senate want as much face time as they can get.  Braley, however, has avoided the camera and instead has used his campaign ads to attack his opponent, Republican Joni Ernst.

Braley’s latest ad features him talking about his efforts in Congress regarding Veterans.  While it’s about time that Braley himself made an appearance in his TV ads, the ad itself isn’t anything to write home about.  I understand why the Ernst campaign has focused heavily on Veterans issues; her service to the county is a key component to who she is as a person and leader.  Braley. on the hand, isn’t a veteran, but he seems determined to negate Ernst’s advantage with the group.

This is second time the Braley campaign has run an ad that attempts to sway veterans.  For the life of me I don’t know why his campaign is fighting so hard for the Veteran vote.  Look, I know it must be embarrassing for a member of the Veterans Committee to be getting beat up for missing hearings during the VA Hospital fiasco, but all he had to do is attend the hearings, and those attacks would never have occurred.

Braley is also attempting to soften his image.  This week Braley visited a nursing home with his mom in tow.  He was also waving around a pie that his mother apparently made.  Braley has an image problem, but with one month to go until Election Day, he doesn’t have enough time to deliver pies to all the nursing homes across the state.  It amazes me that Braley, who has been in the race since January of 2013, waited until October 2014 to start caring about his image.  I guess a bunch of poor poll numbers will do that to a person.

People seem surprised at how poor of a candidate Braley ended up being, but I think his purple campaign logo and the awful sleeveless campaign shirts were early clues.

Where is the Help for David Young?

In July and August, the two highest-ranking Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, headlined fundraisers for Third District Republican Congressional candidate David Young in Des Moines.  The events were low-key, but it was a good sign that Young was able to get them to come to Iowa on his behalf.

Since then, countless national figures have come to Iowa to help Republican candidates and political organizations in recent weeks, but it seems like Young is basically being ignored.  I understand why a sitting U.S. Senator like Ohio’s Rob Portman or South Dakota’s John Thune are helping Joni Ernst in her U.S. Senate race, but what I don’t understand is how high profile members of Congress, like Congressman Paul Ryan and Congressman Mike Rogers come to the Third Congressional District and help Ernst but not Young.

Young is in desperate need of money for his campaign.  Republicans love to make fun of Democrat gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch for being broke and being forced to take down his TV, radio, and internet advertising, but Young is dealing with the same thing.  Young’s been dark on TV for a couple of weeks now.  He has canceled all of his reservations in the Omaha market, but he is expected to be back on the airwaves in Des Moines soon.

Donald Trump to Raise Money for Congressman King in Des Moines

Another candidate in need of an infusion of cash is Congressman Steve King.  As was tweeted by Des Moines Register reporter Jennifer Jacobs, Donald Trump will be in Iowa on October 18th to raise money for King.  Jacobs says the fundraiser will be held in a “gated neighborhood.”  I’m told it’s the same gated neighborhood that Ms. Jacobs’ father calls home.

Here is a copy of the invite.

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 7.22.56 AM

What $443,000 gets you these days…

House 2You can buy this 2061 square foot ranch home in Johnston that sits on a third of an acre for $443,500, or you can buy one week of TV in the Des Moines media market (1000 points).  Omaha TV is more modest as 1000 points of TV will only set you back $210,000.

A lot of people hate it when the discussion of candidates and campaigns gravitate towards fundraising, but campaigns are not cheap.  If you want to know why Jack Hatch, David Young, and Steve King are not currently on TV, you now know why.  And don’t forget this is just for the air time – you still have to pay to produce the TV ad.

One Person Who’s Not Struggling In the Fundraising Department? Joni Ernst 

Ernst raised a whooping $4.5 million in the last three months, Braley raised significantly less, having brought in only$2.8 million.

What kind of house can you buy for $4.5 million you ask?

house1Well this four bed, five bathrooms, 6,500 square foot Urbandale home is on the market for $4.5 million.  The home’s owner, Mike Vermillion, says, “This is an Austin Powers kind of house.”

Yeah, baby!

Don’t feel bad for Braley, his $2.8 million would get him this five bedroom, six bathroom home in Urbandale.


A Confident Ernst Easily Wins First U.S. Senate Debate

JoniIowa voters didn’t need to be aware of the results of the latest Des Moines Register Iowa Poll to know who was leading in the U.S. Senate race.  They could just tune into Sunday night’s debate between Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley and see for themselves.

Ernst was calm, confident, and resolute.  Braley on the other hand was nervous, unsure, and desperate to attack his opponent.  You don’t have to take my word for it, just watch Braley’s hand shake every time he challenged Ernst at Sunday’s debate at Simpson College in Indianola.

If you would have told Iowans that Braley, a trial lawyer by training and four term member of Congress, would be the nervous one a year ago when everyone believed that he has the clear favorite to succeed Senator Tom Harkin, they would have laughed at you.  Braley didn’t just have a bad debate.  Braley isn’t just dealing with an opponent who is exceeding expectations.  Braley has lost the lead, and it is clear that he knows it.

It took Braley only ten seconds into his opening statement to attack Ernst by attempting to tie her to the Koch brothers and the Tea Party movement. Braley’s aggressive nature would last throughout the hour-long debate, but it didn’t necessarily help him.

“Braley has a fundamental problem,” Bob Haus, an experienced Republican operative told “People don’t like him.  He did exactly what everyone thought he’d do, which is go on the non-stop attack.  That is the hallmark of a candidate who is in trouble and trending downward. About the only thing he didn’t do tonight was to throw tea leaves at Joni. People don’t like him, and his performance tonight will underscore why people don’t like him.”

Ernst took plenty of shots at Braley during the debate, but unlike Braley, Ernst’s attacks were more subdued and didn’t seem so desperate.  The behavior of the candidates couldn’t have been any more different, and neither could their appearance have been more different.  Ernst, sporting a sharp red jacket and perfect makeup looked fantastic on the debate stage, and never once did the camera ever see her sweat.

Braley. on the other hand, looked horrible.  His pale purple tie looked as washed out as his skin, his hair was unruly, and worse yet, it was like Braley was clueless as to where the camera was.  Ernst answered every question directly into the camera.  Like in her TV ads, she came across as being very likeable and honest.  Conversely, Braley looked everywhere but the camera.  It was almost as if Ernst was in HD and Braley was in black and white.

Ernst’s debate performance went beyond looking good; she was also able to easily handle questions that came her way.  The debate began with Ernst being questioned about her position on Social Security reform, and later she was questioned on abortion, eliminating the Department of Education, eliminating the EPA, and so on and so forth.  Sunday’s debate in Indianola should have been a huge win for Braley when you look at the subject matter that was discussed, but Ernst dealt with each issue directly.  Even if you don’t necessarily agree with her position on an issue, her answers where reasonable and very much inline with most Iowans.

“Voters like and want to like Joni Ernst, and she showed why tonight,” Haus said.  “She’s strong, she’s resolute, and she stands up for herself without being disagreeable. Her answers on a number of subjects like the minimum wage were so reasonable the only way Congressman Braley could make his point was to argue to the extreme. It was painful to watch him regurgitate tired, old, Democratic talking points.”

Sunday night’s debate capped off an incredible weekend for Ernst.  Having the Des Moines Register poll show her with a six-point lead only invigorates Iowa Republicans for the final stretch of the campaign. At the same time, Braley trailing in the Iowa Poll likely demoralizes Democrats.  That is especially problematic for Democrats because Braley is all they really have on the statewide ballot.

Ernst ended the debate by landing a jab on Braley when she asked how Iowans could expect Braldey to work across the aisle when he couldn’t walk across his yard to settle a neighborly dispute.  The line left Braley speechless.  He uttered that the story wasn’t true, but debate sequence made his look bad.

Ernst didn’t need to land that punch to win the debate.  That exchange is likely what Republican activists will be talking about, but Ernst won that debate by calmly handling difficult questions that favored her opponent and by coming off as a reasonable leader who Iowans can count on to work on their behalf in our nation’s capitol.

Haus saw Ernst as the clear winner too. “Joni Ernst clearly carried the night with a solid performance on a very big stage. In contrast, her opponent, Congressman Braley, looked more like an unprepared first year law student than an experienced trial lawyer. His arguments were tired and worn out and worse yet, the evidence he tried to present in front of the Iowa jury of voters was weak and unsubstantiated.”

I couldn’t agree more.




Just Like In the Primary, Ernst Has Momentum Heading Into Election Day

ErnstJoni Ernst’s six-point lead in the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll has Republicans pumped up for the final push of the campaign and has Democrats in panic mode.

Ernst couldn’t have had a better weekend.  First, she had Wisconsin Congressman and 2012 Vice President nominee Paul Ryan in Iowa helping her raise money at a high dollar fundraiser in West Des Moines.  Second, Ryan wisely dropped by the Iowa Faith and Freedom’s annual fundraiser to say a few words and deliver the news to the audience that Ernst was leading Congressman Bruce Braley in the Iowa Poll by six-points.  As one would expect, they crowd erupted.

There has been no shortage of polls in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race.  While having new data to comb through on a regular basis has it’s advantages, all that information hasn’t necessarily provided a lot of clarity on the race.  In the 15 polls taken in in the general election, six have shown the race to be tied, five have Ernst leading, and four show Braley with the lead.  What has to worry the Braley campaign is that two of the last four polls have shown Ernst with a six-point lead.

With Governor Terry Branstad in strong position to win re-election, one might expect that to help Ernst in the U.S. Senate race.  Oddly enough, the polls that have shown Branstad with the biggest leads have routinely showed the Senate race tied.  Conversely, polls that showed Branstad with smaller edge over Democrat gubernatorial candidate Jack Hatch have shown Ernst with a significant lead over Braley.  As the race enters the final weeks, it appears that 2014 may indeed be a fantastic year for Republicans.

Other Thoughts on Register’s Iowa Poll

The Narrative Is Set

The narrative in the U.S. Senate race has been set for months now, and it’s not going to change.  Yes, the debates are important, but Braley has done nothing in the past year and a half to sell himself to Iowans.  Ernst might not weigh in on issues as much as some would like, but her campaign has done a masterful job of communicating to voters what type of person she is.

Braley’s Campaign Is a Mess

Braley hasn’t run biographical TV spot in the general election.  Braley ran three biographical spots in May, but none since.  Almost every ad that the Ernst campaign has run in the general election has spoken to her character and values.  If you want to understand why Braley isn’t selling to rural voters, it’s not just because he said some insanely stupid stuff about Chuck Grassley and Iowa farmers, it’s because his campaign would rather run ads showing women talking about abortion rights.

Braley and his campaign team seem to have forgotten that people vote for candidates, not against a candidate.  Braley’s campaign has offered no positive reason for people to vote for him.  This summer, Braley fired his pollster and ad maker, but his new team doesn’t seem to be any better than his old team.  Perhaps the candidate is the problem.

Ernst Strength is Good for Republican Congressional Candidates

Of course the result of the Iowa Poll is good news for the Ernst campaign, but it’s also good for other Republicans up and down the ballot.  If Branstad and Ernst can maintain their advantage until Election Day, Republican candidates running for congress could benefit.  Rod Blum is running a strong campaign in Iowa’s First Congressional District.  If Braley isn’t able to build a lead in his home district, Blum has a real shot at winning his seat.

Ernst is expected to run well in her home area, and that’s good for David Young.  The only exception is Des Moines, where Braley is likely the strongest.  Still, if Branstad and Ernst are strong, it will help Young in the Third District.  In Iowa’s Second Congressional District, Mariannette Miller-Meeks is challenging an incumbent in Congressman Dave Loebsack.  That’s a tall task, but again, if Republicans romp across rural Iowa like the Register poll suggests they are doing, the third time may be a charm for Miller-Meeks.

Timing Matters in Politics

If you want to know why Terry Branstad is on the verge of being the nations longest serving governor, there are two things you need to understand.  The first is Branstad’s astute understanding of Iowans and Iowa politics.  The second is timing.  Branstad’s last three campaigns have been 1994, 2010, and 2014.  All mid-term elections when a Democrat occupied the White House.  The 1994 and 2010 election cycles were the best ever for Republicans, and 2014 seems to be shaping up well for Republicans.

Joni Ernst also has exceptional timing; it is just not quite as obvious.

Ernst’s primary campaign caught fire at the same time when the tape of Braley disparaging Chuck Grassley and Iowa farmers became public.  She was able to ride the momentum to a huge primary win.  She didn’t just win the primary, she destroyed her competition by garnering 56 percent of the vote.  Now she seems to be building momentum as we enter the final phase of the general election.

FLASH BACK – Déjà vu

Back in March, I wrote an article about how the 2014 U.S. Senate race reminded me of the 2006 gubernatorial race.

The minute the Democrat primary for governor was in the books in 2006, the race completely changed.  The same is likely to happen in the U.S. Senate race this year.  While Braley currently enjoys better name I.D. across the state, that advantage evaporates as soon as the Republican primary ends on June 3rd.  Braley’s fundraising advantage will also likely erode once the primary is over as well.

Even though the Iowa U.S. Senate race isn’t currently garnering the attention it deserves in places like Washington D.C., when the dust settles in June and Republicans have their candidate, the race is bound to be one of the most hotly contested senate races in the country.  The outcome of the race could also very well decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.

Braley may look like a clear frontrunner today, but I can’t help but think of the 2006 Nussle campaign when I look at Braley.  Everything went right for Nussle in 2005 and early 2006, but when the general election campaign began, Chet Culver was a far more formidable candidate than anyone saw coming.

They say history repeats itself, but this time I think the shoe is on the other foot.  Braley has had a phenomenal 2013 and early 2014, but the only thing that really matters is how he does in the general election.  All the signs in this year’s general election are not currently pointing in Braley’s favor.

  • In 2006, Nussle was a well-known and well-funded eastern Iowa congressman.  The same can be said about Braley in 2014.
  • In 2006, Nussle had to deal with an unpopular president in George W. Bush, just like Braley has to deal with Barack Obama today.
  • Nussle was crushing the Democrats in the polls before the June primary, but that advantage was wiped away once the general election began.  Nussle’s fundraising advantage was also vanished.
  • Nussle didn’t carry his congressional district in 2006, and now the Iowa Poll shows Braley tied with Ernst in Northeast Iowa.
  • In 2006, Republican’s couldn’t imagine Chet Culver as their governor. I had to chuckle when I saw this in John Deeth’s article about the Iowa Poll:

But multiple times, I’ve had people come up to me, and initiate the political conversation, and invariably it’s this race. And invariably it’s some version of “that crazy pig lady can’t actually WIN, can she?” I respond with something like, “she could, it’s going to be very close.” They usually shudder at the idea.”




Big Names Trying to Raise Big Bucks for Ernst Campaign – The Weekly Roundup

Thune062414It’s been somewhat surprising that big name politicians and celebrities haven’t been rolling in and out of Iowa in an effort to help the candidates running for the United States Senate raise money.

It’s not like Iowa Republicans have been starved for attention.  Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee have all been to Iowa over the summer.  And I’d sure that I forgot someone in that list.  Oh yeah, Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Dr. Ben Carson have all been to Iowa recently too.

I can’t remember a prominent statewide campaign that didn’t have some sort of huge Republican fundraising dinner or something.  President George W. Bush headlined big fundraisers for Doug Gross and Jim Nussle during their campaigns for governor in 2002 and 2006.  Chris Christie headlined a big dinner for Branstad once he was the nominee in 2010.  Christie came back to Iowa to do fundraisers for Branstad, but we have yet to see a big Iowa fundraising event for Ernst.

It appears that’s about to change as Congressman Paul Ryan is scheduled to be in West Des Moines for a fundraiser for Ernst on September 27th.  The event is being hosted by Sharon and Kyle Krause and will be held at the Kum & Go Corporate offices.  The minimum price to attend is $500.

A few days later, South Dakota Senator John Thune and Ohio Senator Rob Portman will headline another event in West Des Moines for Ernst on October 1st.  That event will only set you back $250 if you wish to attend.  That may seem a bit steep to just attend a reception, but when you consider that a breakfast fundraiser for State Senators Bill Anderson, Jake Chapman, and Randy Feenstra featuring Governor Branstad in Des Moines on October 9th would set you back $2,500 a plate, those Ernst events look like a bargain if you ask me!

I’m still surprised that Republicans have not really done the classic big fundraising dinner this cycle, but frankly, the fundraising demands for a hotly contested U.S. Senate race probably doesn’t really lend itself to an event that would take weeks to plan and implement.

NFL = Not For Long

The NFL has had a disastrous beginning to their season.  Instead of people talking about the games, everyone and their brother is talking about domestic and child abuse.

Former NFL coach Jerry Glanville is the one who coined the phrase that the NFL stands for “not for long” if you are a head coach.  After watching the repeated public relations blunders the NFL has made in the past month, I think the NFL as we know it will not last much longer.  Now don’t worry, I don’t think professional football is going anywhere, but I do think that days of a strong NFL commissioner are over.

Current commissioner Roger Goodell made it his priority to protect the integrity of the game when he got the job in 2006.  In addition to taking steps to make the game itself safer, Goodell has also been tough on players who break NFL policies.  Now he’s getting it from all sides because of his mismanagement of the Ray Rice ordeal by only suspending him for two games for knocking out his wife in a hotel elevator.

Now the NFL has a handful of players who have either been convicted of domestic abuse or charged with child abuse.  It’s out of control. While Goodell folded to public pressure and suspended Rice indefinitely after video showing him knocking out his wife surfaced, he’s done little with Greg Hardy, a linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, who was convicted of choking his girlfriend and threatening to kill her.  Rice is suspended until further notice. Hardy played in week one, was deemed inactive by his team for week two, and his current status is now in limbo.

San Francisco 49ers defensive end, Ray McDonald, was arrested for apparently beating his pregnant girlfriend.  Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, has been indicted on child abuse charges for beating his four-year old child with a switch.  The photos are disturbing to say the least, and much like the Ray Rice case, Peterson has basically admitted to doing it.  If all that wasn’t bad enough, on Wednesday it was reported that Arizona Cardinals running back, Jonathan Dwyer, head-butted and broke his wife’s nose after she bit his lip to stop his unwanted sexual advances.

Quite a week, but how does the NFL change?

I doubt much will change in how some NFL players behave, but I do think the league itself, especially the commissioner, will change how they deal with these kind of instances.  Simply put, I think the NFL becomes a huge bureaucracy.  Why? So it’s easier to protect the commissioner and team ownership groups.

Instead of Goodell handing down punishment, it will be some nameless, faceless commission that is appointed that will rule on what level of punishment players should receive.  That’s right, the NFL will take a page from our ineffective federal government because it will be easier to deflect any blame or outrage that comes their way in the future.

Heck, if Barack Obama can get re-elected by pointing the finger at everyone else after the mess he made, I’m pretty sure the NFL will eventually realize that a bureaucracy is all they need to keep the money flowing.

What does Branstad do when up 22 points? Attack Hatch.

Governor Terry Branstad is crushing his Democrat opponent Jack Hatch in the polls.  Two recent polls show Branstad leading Hatch by 22 and 23 points.  I think it’s pretty clear that the race is over.  I understand one still needs to campaign and go through the motions, but is it really necessary to run a negative ad against Hatch?  Now, I think it’s a good hit, and I understand that it’s probably been in the can for months, but come one.

Branstad’s positive ads are excellent.  Run more of those.  Branstad is a great cheerleader for the Republican ticket, but I don’t know what is gained by running a negate ad against Hatch.

Judy Woodruff of PBS Newshour Looks at the Iowa US Senate Race

There is some interesting stuff in this 10-minute look at the Iowa U.S. Senate race.  It’s worth your time to watch this.

U.S. Senate Polls are Like the Iowa Weather – Unpredictable

JoniThey say in Iowa that, if you don’t like the weather, just give it a few minutes and it will change. Now it appears that saying now applies to political polls. We began to see it in the 2012 Republican Presidential Caucuses, but the polls in this year’s U.S. Senate race seem to fluctuate as much as the weather as well.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst hadn’t led in a poll since July, but the latest Quinnipiac poll that was released on Wednesday shows Ernst with a six-point lead over her Democrat opponent, Congressman Bruce Braley.

For most of the summer, Ernst and Braley were deadlocked; poll after poll either showed the race tied or one of the candidates leading by just one point. The previous three polls of the race all showed Braley leading by as much as four points. Needless to say, the Quinnipiac poll showing Ernst up six points was welcomed news for the Ernst campaign and Iowa Republicans.

If the results of the Quinnipiac poll are accurate – that Ernst is at 50 percent and leads Braley with independent voters by seven points – then the Republicans’ chances of picking up the Iowa State Senate, holding the Third Congressional Seat, and perhaps picking up another seat in Congress are excellent. Yet, while the Quinnipiac poll is great news for Republicans, other recent polls, such as the Loras College Poll, have basically predicted the exact opposite outcome in the race for the U.S. Senate.

In fact the Quinnipiac poll couldn’t be more different from the Loras College poll. Quinnipiac has Ernst up six points over Braley, the Loras poll has her trailing by four. The Quinnipiac poll shows Ernst with a 45 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable rating, while the Loras poll shows her under water, with a 40 percent unfavorable rating compared to a 37 percent favorable rating. The Quinnipiac poll shows Ernst leading independent voters by seven points, while the Loras poll has Braley leading with independents by eight points.

So what does one make of all this?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that the U.S. Senate race between Ernst and Braley is close. In fact, if you look at the CNN poll that was released between the Loras and Quinnipiac Polls, it pretty much splits the different between the two. The CNN poll shows Braley leading 49 percent to 48 percent. It also shows both candidates with essentially the same favorability numbers, 48 percent for Braley and 47 percent for Ernst. A FOX News poll released on Wednesday also shows the race tied at 41 percent each.

Braley is viewed a little less unfavorably at 43 percent than Ernst, who was viewed unfavorably by 47 percent. It’s pretty easy to justify the difference between the candidates in the CNN poll given that Ernst has been hammered by negative ads throughout the general election campaign. Braley and the Democrats are currently attacking her with ads about social security and abortion rights.

The Ernst campaign deserves to be commended on its latest ad regarding social security. While the ad doesn’t necessarily advance Ernst’s position on social security reform, it does an excellent job of responding to the liberal attack ads that are being run against her.

Beyond doing a good job fighting back on the issue of social security, the ad also puts on display a huge stylistic difference between Ernst and Braley. In the general election campaign, Ernst’s ads have featured the candidate speaking directly into the camera. Not all candidates can pull that off, but Ernst is pretty good at it. Braley’s ads, on the other hand, have not featured the candidate himself.

That could be the reason why the Quinnipiac polls shows Ernst doing better than Braley when respondents were asked which candidate is honest and trustworthy or which candidate cares about your needs. In each question, Ernst has increased her position in the poll substantially. In the June Quinnipiac poll, Braley and Ernst each garnered 45 percent on the honest and trustworthy question. The only difference was that Ernst had a slightly higher negative on the question.

The September Quinnipiac poll shows that Ernst’s honest and trustworthy number has grown to 55 percent, while Braley’s number stayed the same. Joni’s negative number grew from 24 percent in June to 28 percent in September, but Braley’s negative number on being honest and trustworthy jumped from 22 percent to 36 percent.

There was a similar change in the question about whether the candidates cared about the needs and problems of people like you. Again, Braley had an advantage in the June Quinnipiac poll with a 47 to 26 percent (+21) compared to Ernst’s 43 to 31 percent (+13), but Ernst leads on this question in September, which is stunning considering all the negative attack ads being run against her.

In the September Quinnipiac poll, Ernst’s numbers on the question about whether or not she cares about the needs and problems of people like you were 52 percent saying she does care and 37 percent saying she doesn’t care(+15), compared to Braley’s numbers on that same question of 48 percent saying he cares to 37 percent saying he doesn’t care (+11). On those two questions, Braley dropped like a rock since June, and it may be because he has yet to address the voters directly in his TV ads like Ernst has done throughout the campaign.

The September Quinnipiac poll was full of good news for the Ernst campaign. While the poll itself provided a positive news story, polls like this can also do wonders for fundraising. The longer the race stays competitive, or the more often polls actually show Ernst leading Braley, the more likely it is for conservative third party groups and the National Republican Senatorial Committee to invest in Iowa. And that’s not just good for Ernst, it’s good for Republicans up and down the ballot.








Ernst Trails Braley in Latest Loras College Poll

JoniThe U.S. Senate race in Iowa has been a close contest since Joni Ernst claimed the Republican nomination in June.  The Real Clear Politics poll average has Bruce Braley leading by just one point.  There has been ten polls taken since the June 3rd primary.  Ernst and Braley have each led in three, and four other times the polls have been tied.

Ernst had her biggest lead immediately following her big primary victory.  She led the Democrat Congressman by six points in a Loras College poll taken in the two days following the Republican primary contest.  Loras College released the results of its latest U.S. Senate poll on Monday, and it shows Braley leading by four points.

When Public Policy Polling and USA Today released their latest polls on the race at the end of August, I wrote an article stating that, while those polls showed a tied race between Ernst and Braley, there where indicators in each that showed trouble on the horizon for the Ernst campaign.

The latest Loras poll shows that Ernst’s support has dropped seven points since their survey in June.  While she dropped seven points, Braley gained three.  The change is even more dramatic when you look at the candidates’ favorability numbers.

Back in June, Ernst was viewed favorably by 42 percent of respondents, and now that number has fallen to 37 percent.  The five-point drop isn’t good, but her unfavorable number is what really moved in a negative direction.  In June, Ernst was viewed unfavorably by 29 percent of voters, and now that number stands at 40.

Braley’s favorable numbers basically stayed the same for the past three months.  In June, his favorable number was at 35.8 percent, and now it stands at 36.3 percent.  His unfavorable number did increase from 26 percent to 34 percent, which is similar to the same increase that Ernst saw, but the big difference is where those numbers currently stand.  Braley’s 34 percent unfavorable number is manageable, plus it’s lower, albeit slightly, than his favorable number.

Ernst, on the other hand, has an unfavorable number of 40 percent, and it was even higher in other polls.  The problem for Ernst is that her unfavorable number is now higher than her favorable number.  If that doesn’t get corrected soon, she could be in serious trouble.

So what do all these numbers mean?

I think it’s clear that Ernst enjoyed a sizable bump after her impressive primary win.  This is really no different from the bump that presidential candidates often get after their nominating conventions.  In Ernst’s case, as the enthusiasm about her big primary victory faded, so too has her lead in the race.

The Ernst campaign also failed to keep the momentum that she had after her primary victory.  This is not to say that Ernst and her team have not had any general election accomplishments, they have, but when you think back over the past three months, her biggest accomplishment has been out-fundraising Braley, which, again, is probably a result of her primary win more than anything.

Campaigns are like steam locomotives.  Not only do you have to build a hot fire to get it moving, but you have to keep that fire hot to sustain or gain momentum.  Any good campaign will constantly keep stoking fire.  The Ernst campaign and the Republican effort at large have had a heyday with Braley’s farm related gaffes, but they did little beyond that to message against Braley.  It’s now vital for the Ernst campaign to gain momentum for the final phase of the campaign.

Fortunately for Ernst, she has three debates with Braley in the coming months to change her fortunes.  Debating Braley will be no easy task for Ernst.  Braley is smart, and as a trial attorney, he is a trained debater.  Braley’s weak spot is that he’s easily provoked, and if his temper gets the best of him in a debate, it could be a game changer.

For Ernst to be able to change the trajectory of the race, she’s going to have to be better prepared and more disciplined than she was in her primary debates.  Ernst’s primary debate performances provided Democrats and liberal third party groups ample ammunition that they have used against her in the general election campaign.  Ernst can’t afford to give her opponents any more ammunition in the upcoming debate.

Ernst has no control over the final factor that could change the balance of the U.S. Senate race in Iowa.  The polls show that the attacks on Braley have been misguided.  How else can you explain the fact that his favorability numbers have basically been flat for the past three months?

Republican third party groups, just like Republican activists, have been distracted by Braley’s gaffes.  How many more ads need to feature Braley disparaging Sen. Chuck Grassley do we need to see?  It’s obviously not having the impact they want.  Perhaps they should spotlight Braley’s liberal record, or maybe tie him to a very unpopular president?

I also think Republicans should drop the line of attack on Braley missing Veterans Committee votes.  Think about it.  How impactful were Mark Jacobs’ attack ads on Ernst missing votes in the Iowa Senate?  Not very.  For the life of me, I don’t understand how a campaign can see how ineffective a line of attack was in the primary, and then in the general election put all their eggs in that ineffective basket.

The race will be a defining moment for Iowa in November.   A campaign for an open U.S. Senate seat should feature big ideas and offer solutions to the problems facing America.  This is an opportunity of a lifetime for Ernst and Iowa Republicans. She should go out and seize that opportunity.  It does no good to be overly cautious while running for office.

The next 38 days of this campaign will be pivotal.  The three televised debates will likely determine who will win the U.S. Senate race.  While the momentum from Ernst’s primary victory has faded, there is still ample time for Republicans to right the ship.

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Fall TV Preview – Iowa’s Congressional Candidates

tvadsIowa’s airwaves are full of television ads these days.  Across the state, it’s difficult to escape the onslaught of ads being run by the U.S. Senate candidates and the multitude of third party groups who are backing a horse in the race.

In the western part of the state, Democrat congressional candidates have been running ads TV ads for over a month now.  Otherwise, the congressional candidates have been relatively quiet when it comes to paid advertising.  Here’s a look at what’s going on across the state as far as congressional campaigns go.

Fourth Congressional District

Republican Congressman Steve King started running his first TV ad in his 2012 race against Christie Vilsack on August 27th.  King has yet to run a TV ad in 2014 in his race against Democrat Jim Mowrer. King isn’t running against a well-known former first lady of Iowa in this year’s election, but Mowrer is running a well-financed campaign, and he’s been running TV ads for weeks now.

Mowrer started running his ads on August 1st.  His first ad focused on his military service.  Mowrer’s second ad continued on that theme, but added a bi-partisan theme, which makes a lot of sense since he’s running in the most Republican congressional district in the state of Iowa.  His latest ad focuses on the need to protect social security.

Mowrer’s messaging should sound familiar to Iowa Republicans because it’s basically the same message that Republican U.S. Senate nominee Joni Ernst is using in her campaign.  Where Christie Vilsack ran as well-known liberal against King in 2012, Mowrer has positioned himself as a centrist Democrat in hopes of appealing to the district’s no-party voters.

Unlike Ernst, who’s having millions of dollars spent by outside groups to define her in a negative light, Mowrer is running his ads in a vacuum.  Now, Mowrer has a ways to go before he becomes a known entity in the 4th Congressional District, but the King campaign shouldn’t wait much longer to start running ads of their own.

If King is able to run ads like he ran against Vilsack he will be in good shape.  King’s ads in 2012 were well produced and worked because they focused on who he is as a person, and his dedication to his job.  Running a more moderate Democrat against King was a good decision for Iowa Democrats, but if King does what he needs to do, he should be fine.

Third Congressional District

Like Mowrer, Third District Democrat Staci Appel began running TV ads in early August.  Appel is now running her third ad, which focuses on Medicare and Social Security with a dose of bi-partisanship thrown in at the end.  Appel is also getting plenty of help from the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee, who is currently running a negative spot against Republican David Young.  Young began advertising on television just last week.

Perhaps the best way to describe Young’s campaign ads is to say they are definitely different.  One of Young’s first radio ads told the story about how Sen. Grassley once told him that you do whatever your constituents want you to do.  “If they want you to cut their toenails,” Young recalled, “you cut their toenails.”  Young’s TV ad is also different than your typical campaign ad.  The theme of the spot is that Iowans want a good meal and good government.

The message is a little quirky, but the ad does at least talk about out of control spending, taxes, and regulations.  Still, the ad hasn’t been well received among Republicans.   Most Republican’s I’ve talked to think the ad is strange.  And it doesn’t help matters that his opponent is doing her best in her ads to hide her liberal leanings.

Young is also getting some outside help.  The National Republican Congressional Committee is running ads criticizing Appel’s record on reckless spending while in the Iowa State Senate.  It’s clear that Republicans are currently invested in this race, but national Democrats have reserved hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads for the duration of the general election.

This is a seat that Republicans should win, but the money advantage is with the Democrats.  If Young can raise the money to keep things competitive with Appel, he should have no problem keeping the NRCC invested in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District.

First and Second Congressional Districts

The congressional candidates in the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts have yet to begin general election advertising on television.  These two seats are the most Democratic in the state, but Rod Blum, the Republican candidate in the 1st District, and Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks the Republcian in the 2nd District, are both excellent campaigners.

Blum and Miller-Meeks are going to need to be competitive when it comes to TV buys if they want to have a shot at winning in November.  Blum has a slight money advantage over Democrat Pat Murphy in a open seat contest.  The problem for Blum is that he’s running for Congress in Bruce Braley’s current district, where the Democrat nominee for the U.S. Senate has a 50 percent favorable rating.  If Braley runs strong in Northeast Iowa, it’s going to be difficult for Blum to win the seat.

Miller-Meeks is challenging Democrat Congressman Dave Loebsack for a third-time; the only difference is that the district has been reconfigured since she last ran in 2010.  The district is much better for Miller-Meeks this time around, but the new territory means that she will need to spend some money to make herself known to voters in the district.

If these races become competitive, the DCCC will quickly engage in an effort to tear down Blum and Miller-Meeks.

More Bad Signs for Republicans – The Weekly Roundup

Social-Security-benefitsIn an article last week, I voiced concern that U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst had not made her campaign about the important issues that concern most Iowans. Since then, the Ernst campaign has weighed in on social security reform, foreign policy, and immigration. While I’m glad to see the Ernst campaign starting to focus on important issues, she still needs to offer her own ideas and solutions if she wants to move the needle against Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley.

Social Security

Ernst wrote an op-ed on Social Security for the Des Moines Register, which was published on Tuesday. Ernst wrote, “The undeniable fact is that if we do nothing, Social Security and Medicare will be insolvent before even Americans my age retire.” I couldn’t agree more. Ernst went on to write that, “In terms of solutions, I believe almost everything should be on the table.” The one thing that is a non-starter of Ernst is raising the retirement age, which she says is “not fair and not necessary.”

The position that Ernst has staked out on Social Security appears to be more a strategic decision than anything else. Ernst notes in her op-ed that Braley recently stated that raising the retirement age is something that should be considered. Increasing the retirement age is something that’s been discussed for quite some time.

Not only has the raising the retirement age been discussed, but the retirement age is already gradually increasing due to a legislative change made in 1983 that increased the retirement age from 65 to 67 over a 22 year period. In 2005, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, proposed raising the retirement age to 70 to achieve financial solvency for the program.

I think it is a mistake for Ernst to take one of the most commonsense reforms that is also achievable off the table. I was also troubled that Ernst believes that everything else should be on the table. I take that to mean that, while she opposes increasing the retirement age despite the fact that people are living and working longer, Ernst seems to be open to lifting the current cap on wages, instituting means testing, or even cutting benefits. If we were to remove the cap on wages, it would mean that the U.S. would have the highest marginal tax rate in the world. So that’s on the table, but increasing the retirement age is not?

It just seems to me that Ernst’s position on Social Security isn’t very well thought out, beyond the fact that it does allow her to criticize Braley. Democrats are also continuing to attack Ernst for wanting to privatize social security. She didn’t do herself any favors when answering a question on the subject at a retirement home in Des Moines this week.

Republicans Outrage Over the Corn Growers Endorsements Is Unfounded

The Corn Growers Association released its endorsements this week. They endorsed Pat Murphy in the 1st Congressional District, Congressman Dave Loebsack in the 2nd Congressional District, David Young in the 3rd District, and Congressman Steve King in the 4th District. They also endorsed Congressman Bruce Braley in the U.S. Senate race.

Now, I realize that Braley has said some idiotic things about Senator Grassley and Iowa farmers, but his voting record on the issues of interest to the Corn Growers is pretty solid. While the Ernst campaign continues to say that she has always been a firm supporter of renewable fuels, the fact of the matter is that her flip-flop on the Renewable Fuels Standard hurt her in terms of getting this endorsement.   Rod Blum, the Republican nominee in the 1st Congressional District, also saw his Democrat opponent get the Corn Growers endorsement because he openly opposes the RFS. Blum opposes the RFS because he believes in the free market, but he fails to realize that the RFS is the only way to guarantee that renewable fuels will be available to customers. Thus supporting the RFS is consistent with his free market views.

Smart Move of the Week – Martin O’Malley

Maryland’s Democrat Governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate Martin O’Malley has sent a number of political staffers to work on Jack Hatch’s gubernatorial campaign and Brad Anderson’s Secretary of State campaign. It’s a smart move as it gets his staff members acclimated to Iowa politics and activist. For the life of me, I don’t know why Republicans don’t do this stuff.

Some Really Early – Early Voting Numbers

Polk County Absentee Requests as of September 3rd

Total Requests: 10,778
Democrat Requests: 7,498
Republican Requests: 838
No Party Requests: 2,414
Other Requests: 28

Woodbury County Absentee Requests

Total Requests: 1,898
Democrat Requests: 1,186
Republican Requests: 328
No Party Requests: 277
Other Requests: 7

I just received an absentee request form by the Republican Party of Iowa, which should help generate some more Republican requests, but Republicans are simply getting out worked when it comes to early voting. It’s not difficult to institute an early voter program, it just requires staffers to get out of the air conditioned campaign office.

When it comes to early voting, Republicans continue to call it good with a couple of mail pieces, while Democrats swarm neighborhoods looking for votes. While this could impact congressional races and the U.S Senate race, where it will really have an impact is in local legislative races.

Polls Show a Tied U.S. Senate Race – And Ominous Signs for Ernst Campaign

Large Storm System From Midwest Makes Its Way East“BOOM!” Joni Ernst’s campaign spokesperson Gretchen Hamel tweeted when National Journal reporter, Emily Schultheis, noted that a the new USA Today/Suffolk University poll of the Iowa U.S. Senate race was a dead heat at 40 percent each.

Hamel’s enthusiastic response suggests that the results are encouraging for her candidate, and in many ways they are, but at some point, the Ernst campaign has to stop celebrating the fact that they are tied in the polls with their challenger, Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley.

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10.33.04 PMRecent polls have shown Ernst either slightly ahead, slightly behind, or statistically tied with Braley.  In fact, in the eight polls that have been conducted since the end of the primary, Ernst has led in three, been tied with Braley in four, and trailed him only once.

The euphoria of a tied race was understandable when the first polls following the five-way GOP primary showed Ernst actually leading Braley.  Most Iowa Republicans share Hamel’s excitement regarding the latest poll results, but the general election campaign has now waged on for 86 days, and there are only 69 days remaining until Election Day.  If Ernst is going to win Iowa’s coveted open U.S. Senate seat, she needs to start seeing some upward movement in the polls.

The top-lines of the recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll and the PPP Poll that came out earlier this week show a tied U.S. Senate race between Ernst and Braley.  While a tied U.S. Senate race is no reason for Republicans to get down on their candidate, if you look deeper into these polls, you will find ample reasons to be concerned.

The relentless negative attacks against Ernst are clearly working.  In the USA Today/Suffolk University poll, Ernst had a 41 percent favorable rating and a 41 percent unfavorable rating with respondents.  That’s not a good sign, but the numbers in the PPP poll were even worse for Ernst.  The PPP poll showed Ernst underwater in terms of favorability, with only 36 percent of respondents having a favorable opinion of her, while 46 percent had an unfavorable view of Ernst.

Braley isn’t all that likable either, but his favorability numbers are remarkably better than Ernst’s.  USA Today/Suffolk had Braley’s favorable number at 41 percent, while 35 percent has a unfavorable view of him.  The PPP poll was worse for Braley, 37 percent had a favorable view of him, while 41 percent viewed him unfavorably.

It’s the break down of the favorability numbers that should concern the Ernst campaign.  In Polk County and central Iowa, Ernst’s brand is getting destroyed by all the negative ads.  Only 35 percent of people polled in the USA Today/Suffolk survey had a favorable opinion of Ernst, while 52 percent had an unfavorable view of her.  For all the talk about Braley’s gaffes and his poorly run campaign, it’s Ernst who is having difficulty appealing to voters in the largest population center in the state.  As one would expect, Ernst does better in the western part of the state, having a plus four favorability rating in south west Iowa, and plus 15 favorability rating in north west Iowa.

On the other hand, Braley has a number of encouraging signs in favorability numbers within the USA Today/Suffolk University poll.  Among female voters, Braley gets favorable marks from 42 percent of female respondents, while 32 percent have an unfavorable view of him. Braley also has a plus 11 favorability number in central Iowa, a plus 20 favorable rating in north east Iowa, which he represents, and a plus 11 favorability edge with independent voters.

While the top lines of the polls show a razor close race between Ernst and Braley, the crosstabs are telling another story that runs contrary to the perception of the race.  This isn’t to say that Ernst’s campaign is doomed, but if she is to be successful in November, her campaign and the outside groups that are working to assist he candidacy need to be far more aggressive than they have been for the first three months of the general election campaign.

Sadly, it seems that the U.S. Senate race in Iowa isn’t going to be about who Iowans like, it’s going to be about who they don’t like.  Thus, when a major poll shows Ernst’s unfavorable number at 46 percent and another at 41 percent, alarm bells should be sounding in the campaign office.  That means that Ernst has to do a better job of responding to the negative attacks being run against her while at the same time doing what she can to be more likeable.

The polling data also seems to indicate that the negative attacks being run against Braley are not as effective as the ads being run against Ernst.  Braley has been beaten up for the comments he made about Chuck Grassley, the incident involving his neighbor’s chickens, and missing hearings on the VA hospitals.  Those are all valid hits, but what about Braley’s record in congress that includes support for taxpayer bailouts of the financial industry, stimulus spending that did little to reduce unemployment, and his failed promise to reduce the national debt?

The U.S. Senate campaign has been void of the issues that matter to most Iowans.  Instead, the campaigns and special interest groups only use issues in which they can paint their opponent in a negative light.  As has been the case in the past three elections, jobs are one of the top three issue for voters, as is the federal deficit, and healthcare.

Both U.S. Senate campaigns have avoided the current issues that are being discussed in the county.  Neither candidate has weighed in on the immigration debate, U.S. involvement in the Middle East, or the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.  The lack of focus on issues in the race may be the reason why Ernst slightly trails Braley when people are asked which candidate’s values most closely match your own.  Ernst doesn’t really talk about moral issues, and when she did in a Washington Post interview earlier this month, Ernst ran to the middle instead of espousing the conservative ideals she campaigned on in the primary.

To date, the Ernst campaign has gotten a lot of mileage out of running a personality based campaign against Braley, but if these latest polls are accurate, that strategy has already run out of gas.  Even if the race remains close until Election Day, Republicans have to worry that the Democrats early voting advantage might be big enough to deliver the victory for Braley.

While it is still early, absentee request by Democrats and no party voters are far exceeding Republican requests.  This is once again a sign that Democrats are working their absentee program that has often times made the difference in close legislative races.  If the U.S. Senate race remains a close contest, their ability to get no party voters to vote early for their candidates could make a big difference.

Again, the race between Ernst and Braley is tied, but there is tangible data that gives an advantage to Braley.  It’s time for Republicans to kick it into gear.  Nobody should be satisfied with the race being tied.