ELECTION 2020

President Trump, Theresa Greenfield gaining in Iowa, poll finds

US Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield speaks during the Finkenauer Fish Fry at the Hawkeye Downs Expo Center in Cedar R
US Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield speaks during the Finkenauer Fish Fry at the Hawkeye Downs Expo Center in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Perhaps Iowa is clinging to its politically purple status after all.

A new poll in Iowa shows Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield making small gains in their respective and competitive races here.

The poll also offers a potential caveat for Iowa Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst and her re-election bid, regarding the debate over whether the Ernst and the Senate should confirm a new U.S. Supreme Court justice before the Nov. 3 election.

Trump vs. Biden

Trump, who won Iowa by nearly 10 percentage points in 2016, leads Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden by 3 percentage points among likely voters, 49 percent to 46 percent, in separate projections accounting for both high and low voter turnout, according to a new poll from Monmouth University.

That’s up slightly from Monmouth’s poll here in August, where Trump led by 2 points in the high-turnout model and was tied with Biden in the low-turnout model.

“Trump’s overall voter support has broadened slightly while Biden’s has held steady. However, this does not seem to be translating to a significantly wider lead for the incumbent among those most likely to vote in November. It still is a very tight race,” Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said in a news release.

Ernst vs. Greenfield

Greenfield grabbed a slight edge in Monmouth’s poll of Iowa’s high-stakes U.S. Senate race. The Democratic challenger faces Republican first-term incumbent Ernst in a race that could help decide which party emerges from the election with a majority in the U.S. Senate.

Greenfield leads Ernst by 3 percentage points in a high-turnout projection, 49 percent to 46 percent, and 1 point, 48 percent to 47 percent, in a low turnout projection.

That represents slight but significant movement in the race: Ernst led Greenfield by a point in both models in Monmouth’s August poll here.

Democrats gain in House races

The new poll also showed Iowa voters shifting toward Democratic congressional candidates, although the poll asked only about generic Democratic and Republican candidates, not specific candidate names.

“It’s an interesting situation where Trump continues to hold a very slight edge in the presidential contest, but the Democrats appear to be gaining ground in the congressional races,” Murray said.

Supreme Court vacancy

The new poll also provides some insight into whether Iowa voters feel the U.S. Supreme Court’s vacancy should be filled before the election.

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Majority Republicans in the U.S. Senate have an opportunity to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week, with a conservative justice. Democrats argue Republicans should wait until after the election to fill the seat, since Republicans stalled the process in 2016 when there also was a Supreme Court vacancy during an election year.

Ernst said this week she supports the decision by Senate Republican leadership to move forward with the process of confirming a new justice before the election.

The Monmouth poll shows strong partisan feelings on the topic: 93 percent of Ernst supporters would approve of the Senate confirming a new justice before the election, while 95 percent of Greenfield supporters would disapprove of such a move.

However, among undecided Iowa voters and those who say their support for a Senate candidate is “soft,” 51 percent said they would disapprove of the Senate confirming a new justice before the election, while 41 percent said they would approve of such a move.

“This is going to be an interesting decision for Ernst. There are enough persuadable voters out there to swing this race in either direction,” Murray said.

Monmouth surveyed 402 registered voters in Iowa from Sept. 18 to Sept. 22, using a mix of live landline telephones and mobile phones. For statewide results, the poll’s margin for error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

The Monmouth poll results are similar to results from the latest Selzer and Co. Iowa Poll, published earlier this week by the Des Moines Register. In that Iowa Poll, Trump and Biden were deadlocked at 47 percent, and Greenfield led Ernst by three points, 45 percent to 42 percent.

A New York Times/Siena College poll, also published this week, had Biden leading Trump by 3 points, 45 percent to 42 percent, and Greenfield ahead of Ernst by 2 points, 42 percent to 40 percent.

Comments: (563) 333-2659; erin.murphy@lee.net

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