Republican optimism in Iowa and Colorado is growing after a slate of polls have shown Congressman Corey Gardner leading in Colorado and Jodi Ernst taking a commanding lead in Iowa. Admittedly, the polls are just a snapshot in time but they do seem to indicate momentum is behind both candidates.
In Iowa, the last five polls of the race (Fox, Quinnipiac, Rasmussen, PPP and DMR) have shown the race tied or Ernst ahead by 2-6 points. Polls taken further back had shown the race tied or giving Braley a slight lead but since the beginning of September things appeared to have turned Ernst’s way. This as Democrats have spent more and leveled new attacks against Ernst tying her to the Koch brothers, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.
In Colorado, Gardner appeared to have weathered a number of attacks on social issues. Part of this could be attributed to his unusual stance of supporting over the counter birth control and withdrawing prior support for a state Constitutional Amendment supporting Personhood. Unsurprisingly, Democrats have continued to hammer Gardner over his prior position in the hopes of driving women to the polls.
A Quinnipiac survey taken in mid September showed the Democratic strategy is having much less success than 2010. Gardner led 48%-40% but more importantly he held a 53%-34% advantage among men and only lost women by 3% (46%-43%). A more recent Suffolk/USA Today survey found Gardner up a mere 43%-42% but again Gardner was holding down Udall’s numbers among women.
These recent surveys have built upon a general feeling that both races have shifted toward the GOP in recent weeks. But even Republicans acknowledge their ground games in the states are weak compared to their Democratic counterparts. In both states the GOP’s state parties have been weakened by infighting. The Iowa GOP has benefitted from controlling all levers of executive governance but in Colorado the party has not had the same luxury. Still, outside groups such as the Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity have been helping pick up the slack.
Democrats have deep seated, personal reasons to fight for both states. Iowa’s Senate seat is held by retiring liberal icon Tom Harkin. Harkin has been instrumental in the formulation of liberal policies and legislation since he joined the Senate three decades ago. In Colorado, the chair of the DSCC (Democratic Senator Michael Bennett), hails from the state. A loss in his backyard would be incredibly embarrassing for Bennett.
Both Udall and Braley have a chance to change the trajectories of their races. Braley got his shot when he first debated Jodi Ernst this week. However, most independent analysts do not believe he landed a solid punch against the state senator. Udall will get his first shot when he debates Gardner in a couple of weeks.
Fundamentals matter and as of today those seem to be increasingly favoring Ernst and Gardner. Neither Udall and Braley can do much about that. Rather, both of their campaigns seem to be flailing and bereft of new ideas on how to turn their races around.
For example, Barley’s entire campaign seems to have been based on the fact he would be coronated heir apparent to Harkin. Udall’s campaign is entirely based on social issues and lacks a potent economic message to appeal to suburban women and win over single men.
Iowa and Colorado’s pinkish tint now give the GOP a realistic shot at winning the majority in the Senate (even if they lose Kansas). Further, if Colorado and Iowa can go red this year it bodes well for the party in other purple state races (New Hampshire, Michigan, Minnesota anybody).