Internal poll puts Jacobs ahead in Iowa Senate race

An internal poll released by Iowa Senate candidate Mark Jacobs (R) finds him with a double-digit lead over his primary rivals and a slight edge in the general election. 

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Jacobs, a former energy executive, pulls 22 percent in the crowded field, according to the poll. Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) has 11 percent support, former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker (R) is at 8 percent and conservative radio host Sam Clovis (R) is at 6 percent in the poll.

Fully half of likely Iowa primary voters are undecided.

Jacobs also holds a narrow lead over Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) for the general election in the poll, with 42 percent to 41 percent for Braley.

Republicans hope they can make a serious play for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa) seat. If one candidate can consolidate the 35 percent support needed in the primary to avoid a party convention, he or she will be in much better shape to challenge Braley in the fall. A win in Iowa would greatly open up the Senate map and dramatically increase GOP chances at winning back control of the upper chamber.

Results from candidates' internal polls should always be taken with a grain of salt, as they're often released to show that candidate's strength. But Jacobs's early lead in the poll is no surprise. He's the only Republican candidate who has been able to raise significant funds for the race, and the only one who's been on the air at all ahead of the early June primary.

The poll shows Jacobs has 34 percent name identification, 7 points higher than any other Republican in the race.

President Obama's numbers haven't been great in the state, which could be a drag on Braley.

The few public polls of Iowa indicated previously that Braley was ahead in the race, though Jacobs's recent advertising to boost his name identification may have helped him. A December poll from Quinnipiac University found Obama with a 38 percent approval rating in the state, and Braley with a 46 percent to 37 percent lead over Jacobs in the race.

Republican polling firm Hill Research Consultants conducted the live-caller poll of 500 likely voters, with a 300-voter oversample of likely voters for the Republican primary, from Feb. 12-13. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.