Just days after becoming Iowa’s Republican Senate nominee, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) has taken the lead over Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) in two polls in a race that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.
Ernst navigated the GOP civil war, getting the endorsements of everyone from Sarah Palin to Mitt Romney. Republicans, who need to gain six seats to take back the Senate, coalesced around her because, as Palin noted, Democrats would not be able to play the “war on women” and “income inequality” cards against a candidate who grew up on a farm and is an Iraq War veteran who serves in the National Guard.
Braley compounded matters for Democrats when he was caught on video in March denigrating Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) as just “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” David Yepsin, the longtime observer of Iowa politics, said at the time that Braley’s “elitist” comments would “hurt him” in the fall.
Braley made things worse right out of the gate this week. First, his campaign released an attack ad comparing Ernst to a baby chicken–a chick!
“First, Bruce Braley insults Senator Grassley and every single Iowa farmer,” an Ernst spokeswoman said in a statement. “Now, he degrades and insults Iowa women by comparing Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) to a ‘chick.’ Braley previously told the trial lawyers that if they gave him money, he would be their voice in the Senate, and it’s now clear that it comes at the expense of everyone else.”
Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political science professor, immediately pointed out the Democrats’ hypocrisy on the so-called “war on women.” He tweeted, “Imagine if a GOP candidate had used a ‘chick’ in an ad against a female opponent.”
The Braley campaign’s ad was wrong on the merits, too, as it tried to claim that Ernst does not have a record of cutting pork. Ernst, however, has supported a hiring freeze in Iowa’s government, co-sponsored bills to limit the amount of state government spending, and called for a constitutional amendment to limit both government spending and the ability to raise taxes, as her campaign noted.
A Braley surrogate, Democrat state Sen. Steve Sodders, then referred to hog castration as “mutilating animals” before walking back those remarks once called out by Iowa’s farmers.
Braley had a six-point lead over Ernst in a Public Policy poll taken before Iowa’s Republican voters chose their nominee.