Iowa state senator Joni Ernst cruised to victory last night and pledged to take her "pork cutting" skills all the way to Washington. (Jackie Kucinich/The Washington Post)


State Sen. Joni Ernst (R) has won the GOP Senate primary in Iowa, easily avoiding a potential convention vote to determine the party’s nominee.

She’s at 53 percent with 22 percent of precincts reporting — well above the 35 percent she needs to win outright tonight. Her nearest competitor, Sam Clovis, is at 18 percent.

AP has called the race for Ernst.

Ernst surged late in the race and got both establishment and tea party support, moving past the erstwhile GOP frontrunner, businessman Mark Jacobs. Ernst was backed by both Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin.

In the general election, Ernst gets Rep. Bruce Braley (D). Braley, as we’ve noted, begins as the slight frontrunner. This is a second-tier GOP target, but still one very much worth watching.

Ernst made a name for herself in the GOP primary with an ad in which she used the metaphor of castrating hogs to suggest her approach to spending if she heads to Washington.