Candidates in the race for the Iowa Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate are jockeying for poll position.
A poll released last week showed Theresa Greenfield in a virtual dead heat with Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, 43 percent to 42 percent.
Now Des Moines businessman Eddie Mauro has a poll showing that in a general election contest, he’s tied with Ernst, 42 percent to 42 percent.
In addition to the Mauro-Ernst question, RABA Research, whose founders include a strategist for the Ernst campaign and President Barack Obama’s Iowa campaign director, asked likely general election voters about the vulnerabilities of other Democrats running in the June 2 primary election.
Specifically, the pollster asked about Greenfield’s U.S. House bid in 2018. She failed to get on the ballot because her campaign manager was charged with felony election misconduct. Voters also were asked whether general election voters might have a problem supporting Michael Franken, who has voted in Iowa only twice in 30 years and has a million-dollar home in Virginia.
In both cases, more than half of those polled said that information gave them doubts.
In Greenfield’s case, 44 percent had “serious doubts” and 23 percent had “some doubts.”
On the question of Franken’s residency, the results were 68 percent “serious” and 10 percent “some” doubts.
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The Greenfield campaign, which has accused Mauro of running a “false, negative smear campaign,” and the Franken campaign criticized Mauro’s negative strategy when Democrats are uniting to defeat Ernst, whom they see as vulnerable this year. Ernst’s favorables have fallen to 47 percent, and Cook Political Report recently downgraded the race from “likely Republican” to “leans Republican.”
The Mauro campaign defended the questions as valid because Democrats “cannot pretend that the Ernst campaign does not already recognize these negatives,” according to spokesman Keegan Brown. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has produced a video on those topics.
“The point of a primary is to vet candidates and make sure they can go toe to toe with their challenger in the general,” Brown said. “If the negatives are too much of a problem in the primary, they will certainly be the death knell to any campaign in the general.
“Just because Greenfield was handpicked by Schumer does not mean she is the anointed candidate,” he said, referring to the Des Moines real estate executive who is being backed by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York.
Franken, who grew up in northwest Iowa and retired as a three-star admiral after 37 years in the Navy, is running an issues-based campaign on health care, lowering prescription drug costs and taking on special interests, spokesman Aaron Slutkin said.
“That’s why he’s Iowa Democrats’ best candidate to defeat Joni Ernst and help flip the Senate in November,” he said, adding that “attacks on Mike’s four decades of military service won’t have an impact.”
Greenfield spokesman Sam Newton also predicted the Mauro attacks would not sit well with Democratic voters.
“It’s disappointing that another candidate would choose to continue doing (GOP Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell’s dirty work, and spreading false smears will only backfire,” he said. “Iowans know Theresa Greenfield is the strongest candidate to take on Sen. Ernst.”
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Newton pointed to a poll released earlier this week showing Greenfield leading the primary election field with 43 percent of the vote to 12 percent for Franken, and 4 percent each for Mauro and Kimberly Graham. Although early voting has been underway since late April, 36 percent said they were unsure who they would support.
A fifth candidate, Cal Woods, will appear on the ballot, but he has dropped out and endorsed Franken.
The primary election poll by Public Policy Polling was commissioned by a group supporting a universal basic income. It polled 849 people May 5-6.
Mauro’s poll of 632 Democrats, Republicans and no-party voters was in the field May 7-9. Voters were contacted by landline and cellphone.
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