Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst is now a step closer to becoming the first female U.S. senator in Iowa’s history.
Ernst blew away her opponents in the five-way primary Tuesday night, winning with 56 percent of the vote, and beating her nearest opponent by 38 percentage points.
A relatively unknown candidate when she declared in July 2013, Ernst surged into the national spotlight in late March with a TV ad titled “Squeal,” in which she detailed how her experience castrating pigs as an Iowa farm girl would help her “cut pork” in Washington. She reiterated that pledge during her victory speech.
“I grew up walking beans, canning food and feeding hogs on our family farm,” she said. “And yes, as some of you may have heard, I didn’t just feed the hogs!”
She will face Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) in what could be a very close and expensive general election.
So far, Braley has a more than a 5-point advantage on Ernst – 41.8 to 36.5 percent – according to a Real Clear Politics average of recent polls.
Ernst, an Iraq War veteran and member of the Iowa Army National Guard, wasted no time attacking Braley and what Democrats have dubbed the GOP’s “war on women.”
“Soon we’ll be hearing about the phony war on women,” Ernst said Tuesday night. “Well, I have a message for them: I’ve been to war. I’ve seen the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make every day to defend our freedoms.
If Democrats want to start throwing around words like ‘war,’ they better be doing it to honor those men and women.
As for their cheap political attacks, well…I look forward to hearing Bruce Braley… lecture me… about what’s best for women.”
Several female Republican candidates have pushed back against the “war on women” narrative – which Democrats used successfully in 2012 against several Republican candidates.
The approach is beginning to be used in particular in states where a female Republican candidate is facing a male Democrat – as in Michigan with senatorial candidate Terri Lynn Land’s ad, “Really?”
Ernst, who has already received endorsements from both the Republican establishment and some of the conservatives parts of the party, will now need to corral the rest of the Republican true believers – a process she started in her speech on Tuesday night.
“Whether you voted for me today, or someone else, I promise you, I will work every single day to earn your trust and your support,” she said.
“Because together we all have the same goal: To defeat Bruce Braley in November.”