Joni Ernst, the plucky Iowa state senator and Army National Guard officer, continues to bear right as she holds holds a lead on her main opponent in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, Politico reports
At a debate Thursday night, Ernst reiterated her positions on issues such as the farm bill (she would have voted against it), the Clean Water Act (she characterized it as one of the most damaging laws for business), and gay marriage (she'd support a federal constitutional amendment banning it). She opposes amnesty and a federal minimum wage.
Some pundits have said Ernst's right of right positions could backfire in a general election in a swing state like Iowa.
Should she win, Ernst, 43, would be Iowa's first female GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, according to The Des Moines Register
, which notes that Ernst's campaign gained momentum following the release earlier this year of a "testes-themed television commercial" that made her the punch line of late-night comedians but was embraced by Iowa conservatives.
The ad begins with "I'm Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm" and ends with "Washington's full of big spenders. Let's make 'em squeal."
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The Register describes Ernst as "a hog-castrating, Harley-riding combat veteran."
Before the ad, Ernst trailed multimillionaire Mark Jacobs, the former CEO of an energy company, who poured millions of his own money into his campaign. His lead also was diminished when Ernst won the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and GOP heavy hitters including Sarah Palin, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Ernst is leading Jacobs by double digits, according to Politico.
Others in the GOP primary are radio talk show host Sam Clovis, former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker and activist Scott Schaben. The Iowa seat is considered critical in the GOP's bid to regain control of the Senate. Doing so will require the party to have a net gain of six seats.
Ernst was on the receiving end of criticism after the recent Santa Barbara, Calif. massacre of a half-dozen college students by a mentally ill student.
"Just because of a horrible, horrible tragedy, I don't believe we should be infringing upon people's Second Amendment rights," she said, referring to the shooting as an "unfortunate accident."
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