Daily Dispatches
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst
Associated Press/Photo by Nati Harnik
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst

All GOP eyes on the Hawkeye State

Campaign 2016

On Nov. 4, voters will head to the polls to decide, among other things, control of the U.S. Senate. At the moment, Republicans appear to have pole position in the Senate battle, but a GOP takeover is far from a sure thing. A key race in the Hawkeye State could tip the balance of power.

State senator and Army National Guard officer Joni Ernst is trying to flip a Senate seat in Iowa for Republicans. She’s locked in a tight race with Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley.

Braley’s team has presented the congressman as a caring leader, crafting campaign ads with personable and emotional appeal.

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In one ad, Braley talks about the death of his father when he was in his early 20s, saying, “That whole period right after my father died was the toughest period of my life. … It was my mom who finally kicked me out of her house and told me that the worst thing I could do to honor my father’s memory was to give up on my dreams.”

Some of the most entertaining adsof the election cyclehave come from the Ernst campaign. In one ad, Ernst said, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.”

Another TV ad features Ernst getting off a motorcycle in a leather jacket and heading into a gun range, bragging she will “take aim at wasteful spending.”

The Braley campaign is working to paint Ernst as a radical right-winger, attacking her for not supporting an increase of the federal minimum wage. 

Meanwhile, the most effective attack ad against Braley was practically written by the congressman himself. Back in March, a video surfaced of Braley asking a group of trial lawyers in Texasfor their support. In the video, he knocks the popular U.S. Senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley, for being a farmer who never went to law school. 

That led to this response from Ernst: “Bruce Braley told out-of-state trial lawyers that if they gave him money, he would be their voice in the Senate.” The liberal website Slate ran an article calling it the gaffe of the year. Braley’s edge has evaporated, but Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics says it’s still anyone’s race.

“It looks like the Iowa senate race is basically a toss-up. Polling there is very close. Both candidates are tied in kind of the low to mid 40s,” Kondik said.

In fact, it’s the tightest race in the nation. Four of the last 5 polls have shown the candidates tied.

Listen to Kent Covington’s analysis of the Iowa Senate race on The World and Everything in It:

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