Tags: Exclusive Interviews | Iowa | Joni Ernst | Senate | primary | Republican

Iowa's Ernst in Strong Shape for Senate Bid, House Race in Doubt

By    |   Wednesday, 04 June 2014 12:26 PM

The landslide victory of state Sen. Joni Ernst in Iowa's GOP Senate primary on Tuesday cheered Republicans, who voiced confidence that she will put the seat of retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin in GOP hands this fall.

"Iowa is primed to go red in 2014," Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus told Newsmax. "Not only are the political dynamics in Iowa in our favor, but Democrats have gotten behind a flawed and unlikable candidate in liberal trial lawyer Bruce Braley."

The last PPP poll conducted before the primary showed Democratic Rep. Braley leading Ernst among likely voters statewide by a margin of 45 percent to 39 percent.

In contrast to Ernst's Senate primary win, the results in the Republican House primary in the Hawkeye State's 3rd Congressional District were uncertain. With none of the six GOP hopefuls secured 35 percent of the vote, a special districtwide convention will be held in two weeks to select the nominee for the seat of retiring GOP Rep. Tom Latham.

The easy win in the Senate primary for Ernst, a grandmother at age 43 and National Guard lieutenant colonel, generated enthusiasm among GOP activists. With nearly all votes in, Ernst had 56 percent of the vote over four opponents.

The closest runner-up with 18 percent was radio talk-show host and college professor Sam Clovis, followed by former Reliant Energy CEO Mark Jacobs, who spent more than $3 million of his own money on the race.

A conservative on economic issues and close ally of popular Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, who is seeking to become the nation's longest-serving governor with a sixth term bid, Joni Ernst fired up GOP imaginations with an iconic TV spot in which she recalled "castrating pigs" as a farm girl. She then vowed to go to Washington and "make them squeal."

In a subsequent spot, Ernst appeared on her Harley-Davidson motorcycle in jeans and leather jacket and fired a pistol in a target range as an announcer intoned: "Once she sets her sights on Obamacare, she's going to unload."

As Johnson County GOP Chairman Bill Keettel told Newsmax, "Joni timed her ads perfectly and deployed the Richard Nixon strategy of peaking very well at the right time.

"Now Joni can win in November because Bruce Braley has a tin ear."

He was referring to a highly controversial comment Braley made earlier this year about Iowa's much-revered senior U.S. senator, Republican Chuck Grassley.

"If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice on the Senate Judiciary Committee," Braley said, as captured on a video posted from a January fundraiser. "Or 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 Committee."

Although Braley later apologized personally to Grassley, the comment has been widely recycled on social media and in the state media.

National Republicans left little doubt they intend to make Braley's remarks a major issue in the fall.

"I don't know how Obama and Harry Reid manage to hold a seat in Iowa with a guy who has been a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and is on tape insulting farmers," Priebus said.

Iowa is one of two states that has never sent a woman to the U.S. House or Senate or elected a woman governor.

Moreover, as Keettel said, "Western Iowa, where Joni is from, has never had a senator since [Republican] Jack Miller served. In fact, when Jack first won in 1960 over [Democratic Gov.] Herschel Loveless, his slogan was 'Western Iowa deserves a senator.' Joni could easily dust that off now."

3rd District Race Up in Air

With results in the Republican House primary uncertain in the 3rd District, Democrats clearly feel they have a shot at capturing the Des Moines-area seat with Staci Appel, arch-liberal former state senator and wife of state Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel.

The results from Tuesday's GOP primary saw state Sen. Brad Zaun, former mayor of Urbandale and a past U.S. House candidate, leading the pack with 24.7 percent of the vote. Following Zaun was businessman Robert Cramer with 21.2 percent, and Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz at 20.1 percent.

All are considered strong conservatives who disagree on little.

If there was any surprise in the race, it was the weak performance of Schultz. As leader of Rick Santorum's 2012 presidential campaign and a vigorous champion of the state voter ID law, Schultz had a strong following among grass-roots conservatives. However, a personnel scandal within his office caused Schultz problems and slowed his momentum in the weeks before the primary.

What will make the convention particularly exciting is that delegates do not have to abide by the results of the primary and can pick anyone as their nominee.

"They can name the top vote-getter, the lowest vote-getter, or someone who didn't run," Iowa GOP activist Kim Schmett told Newsmax. "It's anyone's game at a convention."

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

© 2020 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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The landslide victory of state Sen. Joni Ernst in Iowa's GOP Senate primary on Tuesday cheered Republicans, who voiced confidence that she will put the seat of retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin in GOP hands this fall.
Iowa, Joni Ernst, Senate, primary, Republican
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 12:26 PM
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