Down the home stretch for the race to control the U.S. Senate, it appears the two states that will determine which party emerges with the majority comes down to Kansas and Iowa.
In Kansas, the more “electable” (according to the GOP establishment) incumbent Pat Roberts is in the fight of his life against an independent (in name only). However, Roberts received some good news from Fox and CNN polls released yesterday, which showed him ahead for the first time in a while. Roberts’ big problem is conservatives. His “Liberty Score” at Conservative Review is only 66%, which is why a recent poll showed him only getting 66% of conservative support. In response, Roberts has brought in both Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz to campaign for him. It looks as if that worked based on the uptick in his numbers.
Despite the independent’s weeks-long polling edge there, I’ve always been skeptical he would actually win for two reasons. One, independents almost never deliver their polling numbers on election day. That’s because of the second reason. Independents just don’t have the ground game of the established parties, so Roberts was always going to out-perform his numbers on November 4th because of that advantage.
In Iowa, where I live, the race is Republican Joni Ernst’s to lose. She has the momentum on the ground, and she’s up against a well-funded by unlikable member of the unpopular Congress in Bruce Braley. He has two other major burdens to overcome: President Obama’s awful approval numbers in the state, and he’s not liked by rural Iowans.
However, just because the race is Ernst’s to lose doesn’t mean she has it wrapped up. Braley cannot win, but Ernst could lose with a gaffe or by throwing her base under the bus these final few weeks. In fact, I’ve heard from several prominent Iowa conservatives who are fearful she will do exactly that in the final two debates, when the issue of marriage/religious liberty is sure to come up given the recent SCOTUS action.
Ernst’s support among conservatives is soft, meaning they will vote for her as it stands now but they are not deeply committed to her, because they don’t think that she is all that deeply committed to them. David Kochel, one of Ernst’s closest advisers, is sort of Iowa’s wannabe-Karl Rove and public enemy No.1 to Iowa’s grassroots conservatives. You can bet he would like Ernst to win by throwing conservatives under the bus, which his previous boss Mitt Romney tried unsuccessfully to do in 2012.
Speaking of Romney, Ernst is bringing him in for a campaign event soon, which makes absolutely no sense to me. Ernst is being blasted in endless commercials for being a corporate shill, so why bring in to campaign for you a guy Iowans just rejected in the last election as a corporate shill? Ernst already has the moderate, corporatist GOP vote all locked up. She should be bringing in the most likable conservatives to help her shore up her base, especially because she has an exemplary pro-life record as a state senator. Most conservatives are just now learning about that because of the Planned Parenthood attack ads against her.
Furthermore, I can’t tell you how many Iowa conservatives I’ve heard from who were on the fence about supporting Ernst, until Planned Parenthood stepped in to remind them Ernst is staunchly pro-life. If/when Ernst wins this thing, she’ll ironically owe Planned Parenthood a debt of gratitude for helping her turn out her base.
Bottom line: Ernst controls her own destiny. If she doesn’t win on November 4 she’ll have no one to blame but herself.
Looking at the other U.S. Senate battleground races, it appears those are trending against Democrats, who are struggling to get above 40% in those races. Therefore, if the GOP holds on in Kansas and Iowa it becomes impossible for Democrats to retain their majority.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.