Many states have one in-state poll which is considered the gold standard for that state and viewed as a first among equals, even in comparison to other respected national pollsters. The archetypal example is the Des Moines Register poll conducted by pollster J. Ann Selzer. The new DMR poll is out tonight and it has encouraging news for the Democrats. It shows Republican Joni Ernst at 47% and Democrat Bruce Braley at 46%. That’s a statistical dead heat with a slight advantage for Ernst. But what’s noteworthy is that the last DMR poll, from about two weeks ago, showed Ernst up by 6 points – 44% to 38%.
Obviously, Braley’s campaign is in no position to be popping champagne corks. But there were a number of polls recently that suggested that Ernst was beginning to open up a clear lead. This poll suggests it’s still anyone’s game.
Also notable are the reasons for Braley’s improved numbers, according to Seltzer. One is simply a better issue match between Braley and Iowa voters; another is the perceived wisdom in having a senator in Washington from each party. But the most noteworthy one – and seemingly the critical factor – is an aggressive Democratic push to get in early votes. Using the time allotted by early voting to turn out the most hard to turn out voters has been a critical factor for Dems in recent elections. And it seems at least to be keeping Braley in the game.