Tags: Joni Ernst | Senate race | Iowa | women

Iowa's Ernst Appealing to Both Genders in Senate Race

Iowa's Ernst Appealing to Both Genders in Senate Race
Iowa Republican State Senator and U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst. (David Greedy/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 29 October 2014 09:19 AM

If Iowa’s Republican candidate for U.S. Senate — Joni Ernst — beats her Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, she will become the first woman sent to Washington from The Hawkeye State. But unlike other women seeking elected office across the country, Ernst is not making her gender a key issue in the campaign to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat.

"I’m not running on my gender," she told The New York Times.

While Ernst holds a comfortable lead among men, 12 points, according to a recent NBC News/Marist poll, she has narrowed the gap with women from 11 points to five points.

Democrats have historically relied on women as a "key component of their base," according to the Times, while the GOP does the same for men. But in a race as tight as the one in Iowa, both candidates need to make inroads with voters outside their core constituencies.

But Ernst has not catered her message based on gender, according to the Christian Science Monitor, that noted not once during three recent campaign stops did she "tout herself as potentially Iowa’s first woman senator."

"I talk to people regardless of gender, whatever the issue is," she tells the Christian Science Monitor. "We focus on overarching issues and how to make lives better, not through governmental regulation, not through governmental control of every aspect of our life, but the broader issues that are out there."

One reason the gender gap may be closing as Election Day nears is that Ernst, a state senator and officer in the Iowa National Guard, has softened her messages since the primary, according to The Des Moines Register, which says that she "peddled conservative ideas and cultivated a persona as a Harley-riding hog castrator who keeps a pistol tucked in her purse."

For the general election, Ernst is "pitching herself as a hybrid car driver [her other ride is a Ford Fusion] who's committed to recycling. And she sticks to themes that are palatable to a wider swath of voters."

Women have been a reliable voting bloc for Dems, but the GOP has taken notice and are fielding more women candidates and reframing much of their messaging, NPR reports.
Ernst has managed to appeal to women in her ads while maintaining her strength and leadership qualities.

"She presents herself as a mother, soldier, leader," according to NPR, which notes her commercials have included Ernst riding a Harley to a shooting range and firing a pistol. But she also tells voters she’s a mother, and grandmother and wants to "ensure that my children and grandchildren inherit the same great nation and values that we inherited."

"She’s a model for the Republican success story," Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told the Times. "They have run right-wing women before, but they haven’t had a right-wing woman before who was able to give so many gender-based cues while still maintaining their base."

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If Iowa’s Republican candidate for U.S. Senate — Joni Ernst — beats her Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, she will become the first woman sent to Washington from The Hawkeye State.
Joni Ernst, Senate race, Iowa, women
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2014-19-29
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 09:19 AM
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