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Murphy column: Sudden burst of polls in Iowa shows close races at the top

Murphy column: Sudden burst of polls in Iowa shows close races at the top

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Trump promoting health care 'vision'  in swing state NC

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on healthcare at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C.

Turns out the pollsters haven’t forgotten about our little ol’ state after all.

There have been two droughts in Iowa this summer. One, the far more serious, made life tougher on Iowa’s farmers. The other made life tougher on Iowa’s political journalists.

I’ll pause here while you grab a tissue to dab away that tear.

There was a bit of a polling drought in Iowa this summer. After the national conventions in August, there was only one poll conducted in Iowa until this past week.

National pollsters, in particular, perhaps made up their minds early that a state that went by nearly 10 percentage points to Republican President Donald Trump four years ago wasn’t worth investing in, especially when so many other swing states — including sexy, new swing states like Wisconsin and Arizona — warranted attention, too.

But this past week the clouds parted in Iowa and the polling rains fell. We were treated to three polls, each of them from highly regarded outfits: the gold standard Iowa Poll from Selzer and Co. and the Des Moines Register, the Monmouth Poll, and a New York Times/Siena College poll.

One key takeaway was the consistency in the polling on Iowa’s competitive and high-stakes U.S. Senate race. All three polls showed Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield leading Republican first-term incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst, and all by similarly small margins.

The Iowa Poll had Greenfield up three points, the New York Times had Greenfield up two, and Monmouth had Greenfield up three in its high turnout model and up one in its low turnout model.

That’s noteworthy consistency across three polls on Iowa’s U.S. Senate race, which could play a role in which party emerges from the November 3 election with a majority.

Given the evidence, it’s safe to say at this point that the Greenfield-Ernst race is extremely close, and we can say with some certainty at this moment in time that Greenfield holds a slight advantage.

But with polls showing results that close with just more than five weeks until Election Day, the race appears destined to go down to the wire.

There was far less unison in polling in Iowa on the presidential race between Trump and Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Monmouth had Trump up three points, the New York Times had Biden up three points, and the Iowa Poll split the difference, showing Trump and Biden deadlocked in a tie at 47%.

Based on that data, we can say with much less certainty who leads the presidential race in Iowa at the moment. But we can determine, much like the Senate race, that the presidential race is close. Very close.

That’s the big-picture takeaway from this polling deluge to which we’ve been treated: the races at the top of the ticket in Iowa’s 2020 general election are very close and could still go either way.

The Greenfield and Ernst campaigns in particular will spend the next five weeks mining every vote possible, knowing what’s at stake and what little room separates the candidates.

It was an illuminating week, one that gave us a better idea of what the political landscape looks like in Iowa right now.

Here’s hoping we avoid any more polling droughts between now and Election Day.

— Murphy covers politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @erindmurphy.

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