Iowa Poll: Republican Joni Ernst takes 7-point lead

Joni Ernst has charged to achieve a 7-point lead over Democrat Bruce Braley in a new Iowa Poll, which buoys the GOP’s hope that an Iowa victory will be the tipping point to a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate.

Ernst, a state senator and military leader, enjoys 51 percent support among likely voters. That’s a majority, and it’s her biggest lead in the three Iowa Polls conducted this fall. Braley, a congressman and trial lawyer, gets 44 percent, according to The Des Moines Register’s final Iowa Poll before Tuesday’s election.

“This race looks like it’s decided,” said J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the poll for the Register. “That said, there are enormous resources being applied to change all that.”

The news will thrill Republican activists nationwide, who are counting on Iowa as an anchor for regaining the majority in the U.S. Senate. On Saturday, a progressive group organized a conference call with Majority Leader Harry Reid to urge Iowa Democrats “to double down and save the Senate.”

“If we win Iowa, we’re going to do just fine,” he said. “Iowa is critical, there’s no other way to say it.”

If Republicans control the Senate, Reid said, “think of what that would mean for our country.”

It’s hard to see much in these poll results that Braley could capitalize on to build a groundswell, Selzer said. “None of this looks good for him,” she said.

Braley has lost vote share since an early October Iowa Poll (he dropped from 46 percent to 44 percent) while Ernst has increased her share (from 47 percent to 51 percent now).

Another sign of trouble: Braley is losing by 3 points in his home congressional district in left-leaning northeast Iowa. In the early October poll, he was up by 1 point there.

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