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Mother, Soldier, and Senator?

Joni Ernst tries to separate herself from the Iowa GOP pack.

Mar 31, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 28 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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In the PPP poll, Ernst and Jacobs trailed the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, both by 41 percent to 35 percent. “Three or four months ago I would have given Braley an advantage, and now I’m not sure he has much of one,” Duffy told me. “He can be pretty closely linked to the president, who is upside down in the state. He can be closely linked to Pelosi.”

Ernst aides say the only reason she is trailing Jacobs in the primary is that Jacobs is the only candidate who has yet run TV ads. According to sources, powerbrokers at the National Republican Senatorial Committee like Ernst but on balance favor Jacobs. On the one hand, that view is understandable, given that the wealthy Jacobs could fund his own campaign. There are perhaps nine Senate seats more likely to flip from Democratic to Republican than Iowa’s. A dollar spent on Iowa is a dollar that can’t be spent elsewhere, and Ernst’s fundraising has been lackluster to date.

On the other hand, Republicans may be valuing money over candidate quality. A lesson the GOP might have learned from recent Democratic Senate victories in Republican states like Montana and North Dakota is that the most important thing is to find a candidate who is a good fit for the state. And a farm girl turned combat veteran seems to be a better fit for a populist state like Iowa than a former business executive who once worked at Goldman Sachs.

There’s also little question that Ernst is more conservative than Jacobs, who supported cap and trade in the past and donated money to Democrats Arlen Specter and Jon Corzine. When I tried to get Ernst to draw contrasts with Jacobs, she would only talk about her record as a “proven conservative” in the Iowa senate. The closest Ernst got to criticizing Jacobs was when I asked if she thought some D.C. Republicans were backing him just because of his wealth. “Money can’t buy you Iowa values,” she said. “And I’ll leave it at that.” 

John McCormack is a staff writerat The Weekly Standard.

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