Tags: Iowa Senate | midterm elections | Joni Ernst | Bruce Braley

Ernst Takes Lead in Closely Watched Iowa Senate Race

By Monday, 06 October 2014 06:29 AM Current | Bio | Archive

In what is fast becoming the U.S. Senate race watched most by the national press in 2014, conservative Republican State Sen. Joni Ernst leads in the latest Des Moines Register’s “Iowa Poll” and appears to have the momentum over Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley.

According to the just-released (and much-respected) “Iowa Poll,” Ernst leads Braley by a margin of 44 percent to 38 percent among likely voters statewide. This poll’s results were seconded by those in a recent Quinnipiac Poll, which gave the GOP nominee a lead of 50 percent to 44 percent over Braley, the handpicked successor of retiring Senator and fellow liberal Democrat Tom Harkin.

Coupled with the Hawkeye State’s niche as the first state in the 2016 presidential race, the scenario of the unabashedly liberal Harkin’s seat captured by conservative Republican Ernst — state senator, National Guard lieutenant colonel, and grandmother of six — has fueled national and even international press coverage. Nationally syndicated columnist George Will has already covered the Ernst-Braley contest, and correspondents from as far away as Denmark are planning trips to Iowa.

“We had a great debate [Sept. 28],” Ernest told Newsmax, “and it was great because I had the opportunity to contrast what I call the ‘Iowa way’ on cutting spending and regulation with my opponent’s ‘Washington way’ on the same issues.”

Ernst spoke to us last week between stops in her current bus tour of all of Iowa’s 99 counties. At each stop, the candidate, who swept the Republican primary after TV spots showed her recalling “castrating pigs” and packing a pistol in her purse, now discusses her “Iowa Way” agenda, often in homespun terms.

Recounting how she worked with Republican Gov. Terry Branstad to roll back regulations that were costing their state jobs, Ernst cited the story of a cleaning woman who wanted to produce goat cheese as a side occupation but was frustrated by regulations dealing with equipment and registration.

“We got rid of those regulations, and that lady was able to produce cheese and help our state’s economy,” she said, “and that’s just one example of how we took a state that a Democratic governor left in terrible financial shape and made it an attractive place to do business: cutting regulation and lowering spending.

“And, well, you see where [Braley] and Obama are on those issues.”

As for Obamacare, the Republican nominee sees “some good things in it, but things such as the problem of pre-existing conditions are addressed in the Republican alternatives. It makes no sense to leave a bad bill in place when it has stupid things in it, when we can pass something fresh that includes purchasing health insurance across state lines and giving tax credits to employers who create insurance pools for their employees.”

She also noted that four-term Rep. Braley voted for Obamacare “and has never apologized for it.”

Ernst believes the major reforms in immigration are “a need to modernize the immigration procedure, to secure the border, and enforce the laws already on the books.” But, she quickly added, “I am opposed to the comprehensive measure [passed by the Senate] or anything that includes amnesty or a ‘path to citizenship.’”

As much as Ernst’s “farm girl” persona and plain-spoken style have boosted her candidacy, Braley has had problems of his own. In March, the Democratic hopeful was recorded at a session of trial lawyers saying how a Republican takeover of the Senate would mean “you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary.”

The disparaging reference was to Iowa’s revered senior Sen. Chuck Grassley, to whom an embarrassed Braley apologized amid widespread press condemnation.

More recently, there was a widely reported incident of how the Braleys’ neighbors in Holiday Lake raised chickens who wandered across other people’s property and that the congressman’s wife, Carolyn, told them she would file a complaint with the homeowners’ association.

During their recent televised encounter, after Braley talked about how he worked with Republicans on key legislation, Ernst quipped: “Congressman, you threatened to sue a neighbor over chickens that came onto your property. … How do we expect as Iowans to believe that you will work across the aisle when you can’t walk across your yard?" (There is no evidence that Braley has actually threatened to sue the neighbors, and there are reports he told the home owners association attorney he wanted to “avoid a litigious situation.” But the complaints he and other Holiday Lake residents have raised about the wandering chickens have been documented.)

“Right now, Joni looks strong and Gov. Branstad appears headed for a sixth term—which will make him the longest-serving governor in American history,” former Polk County (Des Moines) Republican Chairman Kim Schmett told Newsmax. “And our Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds should also win easily. I think we’re seeing a Republican ‘wave’ out here.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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In what is fast becoming the most-watched U.S. Senate race, conservative Republican State Sen. Joni Ernst leads in the latest Des Moines Register's "Iowa Poll" and appears to have the momentum over Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley.
Iowa Senate, midterm elections, Joni Ernst, Bruce Braley
Monday, 06 October 2014 06:29 AM
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