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Joni Ernst Wins GOP Senate Primary In Iowa

iowa

Joni Ernst, a State Senator who received the backing from both Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, was won the Republican Primary for the Iowa Senate seat being vacated by Tom Harkin at the end of the year:

Joni Ernst won Iowa’s five-way Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, clearing the 35 percent threshold necessary to avoid a convention nomination fight.

Ernst, a state senator who ran as “a mother, soldier and conservative” and spoke of castrating hogs in one of the year’s breakout ads, will face Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the fall election.

Both are vying to replace retiring liberal icon Tom Harkin. The result could be one of the year’s most expensive races and play a key role in determining whether Republicans capture the Senate.

In a statement released by her team after her win, the 43-year-old Ernst thanked her supporters and pivoted to slamming Braley, who she tagged as a “rubber stamp” for President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders.

“This campaign will come down to a very simple choice: our shared Iowa values, versus Bruce Braley’s liberal Washington values,” Ernst said.

According to the statement, Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard who served a tour in Iraq, will start a statewide tour on Wednesday alongside Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. She’s due to report for National Guard duty once that tour ends, the statement says without giving an exact timeframe.

Ernst opened a big early lead on Tuesday.

As returns came in, former energy CEO Mark Jacobs, who invested more than $3.1 million of his own money in the primary race and had been second in polls, was trailing radio host Sam Clovis, who had the support of social conservatives. Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker was in fourth place.

Ernst’s campaign spent around $1 million but also got sizable outside air cover from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Senate Conservatives Fund and others.

Afternoon thunderstorms sweeping east across the Hawkeye state helped keep turnout low on Tuesday.

Had Ernst not cleared the 35 percent threshold, a June 14 state GOP convention featuring some 2,000 party activists would have decided the nominee.

Ernst won backing from an eclectic coalition of Republicans. Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio each visited the Hawkeye State to stump for her.

Iowa has not been on most lists of those states that are considered to be in play in 2014. Nonetheless, there have been some indications that there might be an opening for the GOP here under the right circumstances, and most observers considered Ernst to be the candidate best situated to take advantage of any potential GOP wave. Recent polling shows her trailing Braley, but by a smaller margin than any of her other primary opponents were, so that conclusion seems to be justified. Whether she can turn this into a competitive race remains to be seen.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    The Iowan version of Sarah Palin.
    Pathetic what has happened and continues to happen to the GOP.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. stonetools says:

    A hog-castratin’, AR-15 carryin’ mama!

    I expect her to flame out, Sarah Palin style, before too long.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Ernst, a state senator who ran as “a mother, soldier and conservative” and spoke of castrating hogs in one of the year’s breakout ads, will face Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the fall election.

    I wonder if she’s “pro-life?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. Dave D says:

    She had far more PAC support on the local airwaves than any of the other candidates. Even if she only spent a million the outta state money poured in in the past few weeks. The only time I even saw one of her own bought ads was on youtube, if that is any indication. Unless you were following this primary race closely you wouldn’t have known who any of the candidates were past their talking points on certain issues reprinted in the Des Moines Register masquerading itself as news. Iowa also has closed primaries so voters could only get a R or a D ballot. In my congressional district (3) every Dem ran unopposed and since I am registered NP I voted the Republican ballot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. argon says:

    Joni Ernst, a State Senator who received the backing from both Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin,…

    I wonder how much money Joni’s campaign had to pay them…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0