Dem poll: Iowa Senate race a dead heat
© YouTube/Greg Nash

Democratic Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyOPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward Trump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer MORE is essentially tied with Republican Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Overnight Defense: Trump ramps up pressure on Iran, international courts | Arrest made after suspicious letters sent to Trump, Mattis | US to offer NATO cyber capabilities Admiral defends record after coming under investigation in 'Fat Leonard' scandal MORE in a new poll of the Iowa Senate race, the latest indication the race is more of a challenge Democrats had expected.

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The survey, from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, gives Braley 41 percent support among likely voters to Ernst’s 40 percent support, with all of the third-party candidates drawing a combined 5 percent support. Fourteen percent remain undecided.

In a two-person field, Braley and Ernst are statistically tied, each taking 42 percent of the vote.

The tight race is due partly to President Obama’s deep unpopularity there. Just 40 percent approve of the president’s job performance, while 53 percent disapprove.

That aligns with most recent polls of the race, which have shown the two neck and neck in a race originally seen as more favorable to Democrats, but one that’s tightened since the primary, now that Republicans have come home to Ernst and Braley has suffered a number of gaffes that have fueled a perception of him as out of touch.

Indeed, PPP’s last poll of the race, conducted in May, gave Braley a 6-point lead on Ernst, with 45 percent support.

Since then, both have faced attacks from outside groups that the new poll indicates have taken a toll on their standing with voters. Ernst is now seen negatively by 46 percent of respondents, up from 32 percent in May, and favorably by 36 percent, up from 27 percent in May.

Braley, too, has taken on water, and went from voters being split on him in May to 41 percent viewing him negatively while 37 percent view him positively.

The two candidates continued to spar this week, with a focus on entitlements. Ernst launched a new ad, backed by a joint buy with the National Republican Senatorial Committee of $350,000, in which she pledges to "protect Social Security and Medicare for every senior who depends on them, like my mom and dad." Democrats called the ad "dishonest," pointing to comments she made during her primary fight suggesting she'd make changes to the program for younger Americans.

The automated PPP survey was conducted among 915 likely voters via landline and internet survey from Aug. 22-24 and has a margin of error of 3.2 percent. 

—This piece was updated at 6:30 p.m.