Monday, September 29, 2014

Ernst Surges in Iowa: Implications

Iowa Republican state senator Joni Ernst is running for the US Senate seat vacated by progressive Democrat Tom Harkin this year.

For the past five months, following a crowded primary, Ernst was steadily running neck-and-neck with her Democratic challenger Bruce Braley.

In the past week, however, the Iowa pig farmer (who is tough with the knife, and strong on military issues)  is posting a six-point lead in two latest polls on the Iowa US Senate Race, with a composite gain on her challenger.

The sources of the latest polls? Not Fox News, not Breitbart, not the Huffington Post or Politico. . .

State Senator
1. The Des Moines Register, the same newspaper which has endorsed Democratic candidates for years (until 2012), the same liberal publication which had promoted Tom Harkin term after term, and the same paper which had called the race for Braley by 75%.

2. Quinnipiac, which as a custom has been more partial to centrist or left-leaning candidates in the past.

In politics, a month can be an eternity, and  in that incredible short yet consequential period of time, things are looking better for Ernst, and election day is closing in.

This trend is abounding across the US Senate map, where otherwise swing state US Senate races are swinging toward GOP contenders, putting incumbents at greater risk, and open seats out of range for Democrats, diminished by their unpopular commander-in-chief President Obama.

Once considered unlikely at best, Lieutenant Colonel Ernst is prepping for an upset in the Hawkeye State, and the Democrats area all upset that one more federal office will fall into GOP hands, and take their control of the upper chamber away.

Ernst's rise into the general election offers some political food for thought for other Republican candidates, too.

Unlike more bitterly contested primaries (and in redder states), Ernst combined the support of the Tea Party Movement, pro-life groups, and the Chamber of Commerce to end double-digits ahead of her other Republican contenders. Strong on family, military, and fiscal issues, the state senator's political experience and grassroots appeal combination have created the well-rounded candidates which Republicans have sought for the past four years, with some hits and misses along the way.

How did she coalesce these three conservative interests so squarely behind her for the win? The last time a Republican candidate joined family, finances, and foreign policy so conveniently, ran for President and won two terms by the widest margins in US History. (Answer? Ronald Reagan).

If Ernst wins in November, could she make inroads for restoring the ideological coalition of life, liberty, and the individual pursuit of happiness which united the Republican Party before?

Bruce Braley official 110th Congress photo portrait.jpg
Bruce Braley
Like another Great Communicator, Ernst knows how to message her campaign and catch people's attention.

She made significant media gains with her "make them squeal" campaign ad.

She fights negative attack ads with positive affirmations from fellow combat soldiers and war veterans.

And voters like her candor and honesty:

"She's the veteran. She seems to have common sense."

Here's another clip from a war veteran.

In contrast to Ernst's direct appeal to voters, her opponent, trial lawyer and Congressman Bruce Braley, has become the Democratic Party's Todd Akin, Christine O'Donnell, and Sharron Angle.

He disparaged farmers, and Senior US Senator Chuck Grassley:

If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice — someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way on the Senate Judiciary. . Or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary. Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary.

When members of an audience said: "We're farmers", Braley did tried to ingratiate himself: "So am I. . .  So am I." Braley argued twice, affirming that he is a farmer, when in fact . . . he isn't.

Braley also made disparaging comments about a Democratic neighbor of his following a dispute about chickens crossing into his yard:

What's so strange about this story is it's an example of where, when somebody else's animals are in your yard, you're the bad neighbor.

Braley's response was overblown, complaining to the resident homeowners association.

Another quote which will give Braley trouble, from 2007:

Let's give a warm Iowa welcome to my new best friends, Senator Barack Obama.

Obama now has a 38% approval rating, and he is taking down Democrats across the country, including BFF Braley.

Ernst's compelling life-story, professional and political experience, plus her savvy with key conservative groups and grassroots voters are paying off, and paving the way for a more likely than before GOP US Senate takeover. Her example could help future candidates unify otherwise fractious elements within the Republican Party, while reaching out to undecided, Independent, and even disaffected Democratic voters.

Could there be a President Ernst in the United States' future, too?

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