Ernst to seek re-election, but open to role in Trump administration

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa journalist. He is the co-founder of the Western Iowa Journalism Foundation and a member of the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative, where this article first appeared on The Iowa Mercury newsletter. His family operated the Carroll Times Herald for 93 years in Carroll, Iowa where Burns resides.

Two-term U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, a Red Oak Republican and the first female combat veteran to serve in the Senate, said on May 29 that she will seek a third term in 2026.

In an interview in Carroll with Iowa Mercury and the Carroll Times Herald following an economic-development event, Ernst, 53, left the door open to a possible cabinet position in a second Trump administration if the former president prevails in November. Trump vetted Ernst in the 2016 cycle as a possible vice presidential running mate.

Asked directly if she planned to seek re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2026, and to rate her likelihood on a scale of 1 to 10 for a third-term bid (with 10 being most likely) Ernst said, “That is my intent. So I would say, yes, 10 very likely. I love representing the people of Iowa, and it really has been a very fulfilling position for me to be able to fight for rural America. Of course, important to me as well are our veterans and Armed Services.”

Ernst said she would wait until after the 2024 election cycle to get a “little closer” to 2026 before announcing.

The Republican senator said she’s fundraising for the 2026 race.

As to potential consideration as the vice presidential candidate for Trump, Ernst gave no indication that she is being vetted. Her name has not emerged on many reported pundit and insider lists, where several of her Senate colleagues—Tim Scott of South Carolina, J.D. Vance of Ohio and Tom Cotton of Arkansas—are mentioned.

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Ernst said of the Trump running mate turn. “But I would be honored if I would be considered for a position in the administration. Of course I’d be honored. Anyone would be honored to be thought of.”

Ernst said her focus is on the Senate, where she currently holds the fourth-ranking leadership position and is seeking the number 3 leadership spot: Senate Republican Conference chair.

“Who knows what the future brings,” she said.

In 2016, I wrote a column for Des Moines Cityview with an analysis on why Ernst would be Trump’s strongest running mate. The column title: “10 reasons Trump should select Joni Ernst as running mate.”

That year, I asked Ernst, as part of a wide-ranging interview on a raft of topics, about the possibility of her being on a vice presidential selection list.

“That’s really nice of you,” Ernst said in 2016. “I think my mother would be really excited to hear you say that. But right now, I’ve just spent one year in the United States Senate, and I feel that I have been an influential member in the Senate, given that I’m a first-year freshman.”

Ernst succeeded longtime Democratic Senator Tom Harkin in 2015, after she defeated then-U.S. Representative Bruce Braley in 2014. She won re-election to the Senate in 2020 by 6 points in a race with Democrat Theresa Greenfield, now a top U.S. Department of Agriculture official.

No prominent Iowa Democrats to this point have engaged in public jockeying for a Senate race in 2026 with Ernst.

Top photo: Joni Ernst speaks to Iowans at a town hall meeting in Osceola (Clarke County) on May 28. Cropped from an image first published on her official Facebook page.

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Douglas Burns

  • Pannning out to landscape view...

    Ernst to seek re-election, but open to role in Trump administration criminal organization

    Pretty much cements my belief there is zero overlap between the moral/ethical fiber of Joni, and, let’s say, Cassidy Hutchison, who’s been there, done that.

  • I could be wrong...

    The attribute lacking any overlap may not be of a moral/ethical composition, but rather of general intelligence.

    The man tried to have his own Vice President assassinated, fer Chrissakes. So there’s that, that one might consider when making any assessment like I just tried…

  • Joni Ernst's concern for the environment is non-existent...

    …and two of the many indicators of that are her League of Conservation Voters lifetime score of 9% and her 2023 score of 6%. So she would qualify as Trump’s pick for Interior, Agriculture, or Energy, and she would definitely qualify to lead his EPA.