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Oct 16, 2014 2:32 PM

Last Iowa Senate debate set for Braley and Ernst

The Associated Press

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) Democrat Bruce Braley planned to be back from an Ebola hearing in Washington Thursday for his final Iowa debate with Republican Joni Ernst in a neck-and-neck race for U.S. Senate.

Campaign aides said the congressman hoped to be in Iowa Thursday evening for the debate at Morningside College in Sioux City, the hub of conservative western Iowa. As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Braley earlier in the day attended a subcommittee meeting on the deadly virus.

Ernst had no campaign events planned, but was scheduled to campaign in GOP-heavy western in the days following the debate.

The candidates are vying for the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. Both were hoping to come out of the Sioux City appearance showing momentum.

Ernst had three times as much cash as Braley heading in to the final weeks of the race. Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show Ernst raised $6 million between July 1 and Sept. 30 and ended that period with $3.6 million in cash. Braley raised $2.8 million during that time and ended the financial quarter with $1.2 million.

Braley was being backed by heavy advertising from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Both candidates have been the beneficiaries of concentrated spending by third-party groups. Republicans hope to win Iowa in their drive for the six-seat gain they need to capture the Senate majority.

Braley has closed in the past two weeks on Ernst in public polls, where Ernst in September enjoyed a modest edge.

Braley has publicly focused his critique of Ernst on middle class economic issues, such as her opposition to increasing the federal minimum wage. But he and allies have intensified their television advertising attacks of Ernst's opposition to abortion rights.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released an advertisement Thursday criticizing Ernst's opposition to such rights, including in cases of rape and incest. Also Thursday, NARAL Pro-Choice America began airing an ad condemning the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Fund's support for Ernst.

Ernst's supported as in the Iowa Senate a resolution that would have advanced a state constitutional amendment bestowing personhood status on a fetus, which would effectively outlaw abortion and contraception. Ernst has said since that supports access to contraception.

When asked about the personhood amendment Wednesday, Ernst told The Sioux City Journal that such an amendment at the federal level would be difficult to enact but that she continued to support one.

Ernst has railed on Braley for voting for the federal health care law in 2010, the signature domestic achievement of President Barack Obama, who suffers low approval in the state, despite carrying Iowa twice.

Two polls this month showed Braley erasing Ernst's September lead among independent voters, while another showed Ernst with a wide lead among independents.


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