And now that the primary is over, here's a big question about the direction Ernst's campaign will go:Joni Ernst, the hog-castrating, Harley Davidson-riding Iowa state senator who burst onto the national scene with a series of provocative television ads, clinched the Republican nomination for Iowa’s Senate seat in a decisive victory over a crowded field of opponents.
According to the Associated Press, with 27.8 percent of the results in, Ernst had 54.3 percent of the vote, clearing the 35 percent hurdle necessary to avoid a state nominating convention, which would have left the decision up to a more select group of Republican delegates.
She will now challenge the de facto Democratic nominee Rep. Bruce Braley in the general election. If she were to win in November, in what’s expected to be a highly competitive race, she would become the first female senator from the Hawkeye state.
Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard who served in Iraq and Kuwait during Operation Iraqi Freedom, set herself apart from her opponents in March with the release of her first TV ad, aptly titled “Squeal.”
In the ad, Ernst says through a smile, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.” - ABC News, 6/3/14
Well this might be a sign of how she's going to pivot:"The real question is 'Does she pivot at all or not?' " said Jeff Link, a consultant for the Braley campaign. "She calls for eliminating the U.S. Department of Education, which even Steve King has said is just a bridge too far for him." King, R-Iowa, has served in Congress since 2003.
In the general election, watch for Braley's backers to talk about his record. He'll say he worked with Republicans to pass legislation, has helped veterans, pushed for more job training and helped force the government to use plain language in its official documents. The Democrats will say Ernst has an "extreme" record: She wants to privatize Social Security, make abortion illegal and replace the income tax with a national sales tax that critics say would benefit the wealthy and hurt the working class.
Ernst supporters will say she's part of the "Iowa way" of running lean government and keeping unemployment low while Braley is enmeshed in the failures of the nation's capitol.
She'll talk about the evils of the Affordable Care Act, which polls show is unpopular with nearly half of Iowans; he'll talk up its virtues. - USA Today, 6/4/14
So yeah, some pivot, huh? By the way, Mitt Romney really wants Ernst to beat Braley:State Sen. Joni Ernst (R), who won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Iowa on Tuesday, posted and then quickly deleted a tweet saying U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Baghdahl and his family were in her "thoughts & prayers" in response to news that he had been freed.
Ernst published the tweet at 3:31 p.m. on May 31.
According to The Sunlight Foundation's Politwoops the tweet was taken down after about 25 minutes. - TPM, 6/4/14
Romney, Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers are going to do whatever they can to help Ernst win so we need to be ready to help Braley defeat her in November. Click here if you want to donate and get involved with Braley's campaign:Indeed, Ernst has built a network of the former presidential candidate's alumni. Her campaign manager, Derek Flowers, was a Romney field staffer in 2008. A consulting group she hired, Redwave Communications, is run by former Romney senior adviser David Kochel, who has been heavily involved in her campaign. Her campaign treasurer, Bradley Crate, was the Romney campaign's chief financial officer in 2012.
Romney himself hasn't been far from the campaign, either, endorsing Ernst's candidacy early on, being featured in a TV ad run on her behalf by the Chamber of Commerce, and—just last week—making a rare appearance on the campaign trail.
But the connection that rankles her critics the most is not a campaign hire or an endorsement; it's the timing of a viral video of presumptive Democratic nominee Representative Bruce Braley speaking derisively about farmers to a group of lawyers on the same day as Ernst's "squeal" ad was released.
America Rising, a Republican opposition research group headed by former Romney 2012 campaign manager Matt Rhoades, helped turn a once-sleepy race into a marquee contest with that video, which came out just as Ernst launched the TV ad that helped drive her campaign to the top of the GOP primary polls.
To Ernst opponents, the coincidental timing didn't pass the smell test. Ernst's hog-castration ad ran only on Des Moines cable channels, but it received national attention in part because Braley's gaffe had shone a spotlight on the race.
"I don't believe in coincidence," said Iowa GOP operative Christopher Rants, who supports a different Republican running in the Senate primary, Mark Jacobs. "Look at the people who run America Rising, the timing of the release of the Braley video, which was immediately picked up by Romney activists here in Iowa who are supporting her, and 48 hours later here's Joni in the hog barn." - The Atlantic, 6/3/14