A new poll published by the Des Moines Register puts Iowa State Senator Joni Ernst (R) six points ahead of Democratic challenger Bruce Braley (44-38 percent), while 12 percent of likely voters remain undecided.
Braley has been heavily favored to win the race until just recently, and Ernst has made considerable gains since she won her party's nomination in June.
"Just seven months ago," the Register reports, "political analysts considered Braley almost a shoo-in for a seat held for 30 years by liberal Democrat Tom Harkin."
Ernst and Braley participated in a heated debate (the first on their campaign trail) in which immigration took center stage. Braley blamed House Republicans for failing to reform immigration policy, while Ernst defended the GOP's anti-amnesty policy.
Braley is a lawyer who has been a member of Congress for eight years. His polling numbers are down in his home district of northeast Iowa, where voters take issue with his negligent behavior concerning veterans' affairs and his role in crafting ObamaCare.
Ernst markets herself as a "mother and soldier" and proud native Iowan. The consensus of political analysts is that Ernst did well in the debate against Braley, who "failed to do her damage." Democrats hope to use Ernst's stance against raising the minimum wage to their advantage.
The Iowa race is still very close. The Huffington Post reports that models give Ernst a "52 percent chance of winning in November."