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Joni Ernst Now in Dead Heat with Bruce Braley

Trailed Braley in April poll

State Sen. Joni Ernst / AP
• June 6, 2014 3:43 pm

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The U.S. Senate race in Iowa is now in a dead heat after Republican candidate Joni Ernst secured a primary win on Tuesday, according to a recent poll by Rasmussen Reports.

Ernst—a state senator and Iraq War veteran who still serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard—received 45 percent support in the poll, while Rep. Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) garnered 44 percent. The survey of 750 likely Iowa voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The poll indicates a bump in support for Ernst, who trailed Braley by about 7 percentage points in early April, according to a survey at the time by Suffolk University.

Braley has faced a torrent of criticism in recent weeks from Republicans who say he is elitist and out of touch with Iowa voters. He called Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school" at a January fundraiser—comments that rankled many in the farmer-heavy state—and committed other missteps such as misspelling basic Iowa farming terms in a press release and pasting a photo of an English fruit farm to his Facebook page.

He has also been criticized for accepting thousands in donations from the national trial lawyers’ lobby and advocating for their interests in Congress.

Additionally, critics have decried Braley’s latest ad as sexist and misleading. The ad features a baby chick and says that "we didn’t hear a peep" from Ernst while she has been in the state senate about cutting spending.

"Imagine if a GOP candidate had used a ‘chick’ in an ad against a female opponent," tweeted Tim Hagle, political scientist at the University of Iowa.