IA-Sen: Ernst feels like front-runner, preparing general election pivot

State Senator Joni Ernst told the Washington Post last week, “I consider myself the front-runner” for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. I agree, for reasons Bleeding Heartland discussed here–and that was before I knew Ernst had snagged one of the ultimate conservative establishment endorsements: from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In what must be a painful blow to Mark Jacobs, who has made business prowess a cornerstone of his Senate campaign, Chamber of Commerce National Political Director Rob Engstrom said in today’s press release,

“Joni understands that big government is an impediment to job creation, and that the best way to turn the economy around and create jobs is through pro-growth economic policies. The U.S Chamber is proud to stand with Joni and highlight her work removing regulatory barriers and encouraging competition in Iowa. In today’s economy, that’s the type of leadership we need in Washington.”

I don’t know what work they’re talking about–as a first-term state senator in the minority caucus, Ernst hasn’t been in a position to remove regulatory barriers or encourage competition. More likely, the Chamber of Commerce settled on Ernst as the most credible alternative to Jacobs.

Over at The Iowa Republican blog, Craig Robinson reviews recent tv ads and campaign spending in the IA-Sen primary. By June 3, Jacobs will have spent more than $1.4 million on broadcast and cable television, plus about $24,000 on radio spots. Based on ad time Ernst has reserved up to now, she will close out the primary race having spent just under $240,000 on broadcast and cable tv. She and her strategists must feel very confident; otherwise they would allocate more campaign funds ($427,201 cash on hand as of March 31) to paid media.

In their Washington Post piece about how Ernst’s debut tv ad “transformed Iowa’s U.S. Senate race,” Philip Rucker and Dan Balz quoted Jacobs supporters Nick Ryan and Doug Gross criticizing Ernst’s ads. Her media consultant Todd Harris shot back, “People should remember that Joni is a mom, a grandmother who has volunteered at a crisis hotline, and that part of her bio will be told.” Thanks for the preview of Ernst’s general election transformation: the pig castrating, Harley-riding, leather-wearing “farm girl” who’s going to “unload” on Obamacare will become a mom and grandmother who volunteered at a crisis hotline. I’m surprised anyone with experience comforting victims would use “Make ‘Em Squeal” as the main slogan on her t-shirts, bumper stickers and campaign bus. Many Americans instantly recognize that phrase from a rape scene in the movie “Deliverance.”

Any comments about the IA-Sen race are welcome in this thread.

P.S. – I think Balz and Rucker should have acknowledged the convenient timing of Ernst’s tiny ad buy for the “Squeal” spot. I find it hard to believe that a campaign endorsed by Mitt Romney didn’t get any advance warning from the Romney-connected outside groups America Rising and Priorities for Iowa, which dropped a bomb on Bruce Braley just as Ernst launched that attention-getting ad.

UPDATE: The National Rifle Association announced its endorsement of Ernst on May 13. The press release is after the jump.

National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund press release, May 13:

NRA Endorses Ernst in Iowa Republican Senate Primary

Fairfax, Va. – The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is proud to endorse Iowa State Senator Joni Ernst for the June 3, 2014 Republican U.S. Senate Primary in Iowa.  Ernst has earned an “A” rating from the NRA-PVF for her leadership on Second Amendment issues in the Iowa Senate. An “A” is reserved for lawmakers who have supported NRA positions on key votes in elective office.                

As an Iowa State Senator, Ernst supported legislation on state preemption to ensure that Second Amendment rights are not violated by cities. In addition, Ernst supported legislation expanding the right of self defense.  Ernst’s commitment to gun rights, self defense laws and our hunting heritage are clear in responses to the NRA-PVF Federal Candidate Questionnaire where she states her support for national right to carry reciprocity; opposition to an EPA ban on lead ammunition and components; and opposition so-called “universal” background checks that would criminalize the private transfer of a firearm between life-long friends and many family members.

“Joni Ernst has consistently opposed all attempts to restrict gun rights and has been a true friend of the Second Amendment,” noted Chris W. Cox, chairman of the NRA-PVF.  

“She is one great example of NRA moms all across this country fighting for our freedoms. She’s the only candidate in this race with a proven record of defending our rights. I urge all NRA members, gun-owners, and sportsmen in Iowa to vote for Joni Ernst in the June 3rd Republican primary,” concluded Cox.

  • Jacobs

    Jacobs never built a strong case.  He invested in and managed different businesses…Ok what businesses did you invest in Mark?  We know they weren’t mom & pop shoe stores in Runnells.  If you’re a guy that helps large corporations through a bankruptcy/comeback you’ve got to have a compelling story to tell to voters.  The deals that Jacobs had to do were messy and less than ideal.  

    It doesn’t mean that he did a poor job per se, but it isn’t a great thing to sell to voters that just want a net jobs gained or lost figure.  David Perdue in Georgia actually has deep ties to the state, but his business experience is similar to what Jacobs brings to the table.  It helps Perdue that people recognize the names of Reebok and Dollar General.  

  • Jacobs

    I read somewhere that Jake looks like the guy who laid you off. It’s Joni, pulling away in a dash to the finish line.

    But darn it, I want Sam. I LOVE Sam !!!

    • We love Sam!

      It’s a hallmark of the race that the pseudo-intellectual talk show crank isn’t leading the pack . . before Joni’s campaign turned in a began it’s brilliant advertising strategy, Sam was my favorite of the pack.  

    • I wanted Sam Clovis too

      then we could have checked IA-Sen off the list of things to worry about.

      I’ve heard many people say Jacobs would be a strong candidate because he looks like a senator, “straight from central casting.” I don’t see it at all. I see a guy who left the state as soon as he could and came back way too recently for most Iowa voters. Ernst’s talking point that she lives in an $80,000 house while Jacobs lives in a house most Iowans couldn’t dream of owning would probably be enough to win the primary, even without the cap and trade stuff.

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