AMES, Iowa -- “This may be the most important election in our lifetime,” Republican candidate for Senate Joni Ernst said inside a brick laden brewpub here.

Nobody laughed. That’s how seriously people are taking Ernst these days as she heads into the final stretch of her once-long shot campaign against Rep. Bruce Braley. Ernst came to Ames last night to complete her 99-county tour, where she has been telling anyone who will listen about how the “Iowa way” is working.  She brought along the man who has visited all the counties perhaps more times than any other Iowan, Sen. Chuck Grassley (the tour is now known as “the Full Grassley.” Her opponent Braley completed the tour in February.)

“Joni Ernst’s election will restore the United States Senate to the  deliberative body it’s supposed to be,” Grassley said on stage. Then he returned to a high top stool, crossed his hands across his lap, and listened quietly to the woman that the crowd of about 100 people had come to see.

“Oh heavens,” Ernst shouted as she took the stage.

For the past couple of days, and for the final few before the election, Ernst’s plan is to have upwards of forty of this smaller rallies to turn out the vote in the rural areas (as opposed to having giant rallies, like the one Braley is having on Saturday with Bill Clinton and folk singer James Taylor).  Her speeches have generally hit the same notes: that things in Iowa are working out better than they are in Washington D.C., that she plans to spend more time here at home than at the Capitol, and that people should trust her on military issues because of her two decades of service.

“I’ve got your back,” she said addressing veterans in the room. “I’ve got your six… Congressman Braley has not done that.”

It’s message that has resonated. After she spoke a 62-year-old veteran named Don Batt, waded his way through the crowd to speak with her. He handed her a folded up American flag that he had bought specifically to give to her.

“I just wanted to thank you for making it possible for my wife to go to work and come home safely,” he said. He saluted, and then they hugged.