Key U.S. Senate races close, new round of polls says


The latest rounds of polling in the contested U.S. Senate races in Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina make one thing clear: it’s looking very close.

To take control of the U.S. Senate, Republicans must win six seats. Iowa, Louisiana and North Carolina have long been considered among the tossup states, along with Alaska and Arkansas. But it’s always been difficult to get a clear read on midterm races — and polling in many of the swing states was questionable through much of the summer, in part because voters had yet to tune in despite being bombarded by ads.

A new Des Moines Register poll of likely voters released this weekend showed Iowa GOP candidate Joni Ernst grabbing a six-point lead over Democrat Bruce Braley. Ernst, who has described herself as a steely Iowa farm girl in some of her ads, leads the eight-term congressman 44% to 38%. She was leading among rural voters almost 4 to 1. About 12% of Iowa voters said they were undecided.


In North Carolina, a new poll from CNN/ORC International on Sunday showed Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan narrowly ahead of her main challenger, Republican Thom Tillis, 46% to 43%. But her three-percentage-point lead was within the margin of error.

A second challenger, Libertarian Sean Haugh, captured 7% of the poll. Haugh, who has won attention with his quirky YouTube videos and his background as a pizza delivery man, has long been active in trying to increase the share of the Libertarian vote locally and nationally.

In Louisiana, a new CNN/ORC poll underscores the steep challenge for longtime Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, who must win more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 4 contest in order to avoid a runoff. Among likely voters she held 43% of the vote to Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy’s 40%, with tea party candidate Rob Maness taking 9%.

Though Landrieu has shown herself to be a strong closer in previous contests, the fact that she is so far from the necessary 50% suggests that race is all but certain to head to a runoff. In a hypothetical runoff match-up, Cassidy led Landrieu 50% to 47%. Landrieu and Maness were tied at 48%.

Though she hails from a storied Louisiana political family, Landrieu has felt the drag from President Obama’s job approval ratings, which are at 40% in the state. In several ads, Landrieu distanced herself from the president’s healthcare law and also his energy policies. Landrieu has raised significantly more money than her most competitive challenger, three-term congressman Cassidy, who is a doctor.

The most troubling aspect of the latest poll for Landrieu is that she is not doing well in the suburban areas that are key to her bid. Democrats have been working hard to ensure high turnout among African American voters in the urban areas of Louisiana. But in past contests Landrieu has always been able to maintain her edge in the rural state by doing better than her Republican counterparts among those blue collar and working professional voters who live in the suburbs around New Orleans and Baton Rouge.


Twitter: @MaeveReston