Republican senatorial candidate State Sen. Joni Ernst, makes a statement to the media after her debate with Democratic senatorial candidates Rep. Bruce...
Justin Hayworth

Braley and Ernst spar in round two of Iowa debate

Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley received a jolt of a confidence heading into his second debate with Republican Joni Ernst Saturday night in Davenport, Iowa. Braley made up ground, according to a new Des Moines Register poll out two hours before the event, which has the race in a dead heat and giving a slight edge to Ernst. That same poll had Braley down by 6 percentage points at the end of September. The heated event mirrored the hyper-competitiveness of a contest that many say is ground-zero in the fight for control of the U.S. Senate. 

Braley said Ernst, who gained notoriety for a television ad during the primaries that included her history castrating hogs, has a history of using provocative language to attract attention and should take responsibility for it.  ”Soundbites have consequences,” Braley repeatedly assailed Ernst throughout their debate. “Senator Ernst is fond of saying things that sound good, but when you look at what they mean for Iowans, they don’t make Iowans better off.”

Braley was referring to Ernst’s anti-government rhetoric and what he called her support for repeal of the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.  ”I believe that the federal government shouldn’t overreach with rules that are killing industry here in Iowa,” Ernst responded.

In one of the more dramatic moments of Saturday’s face-off, Ernst elicited the loudest applause of the evening from the audience when she slammed Braley for his now infamous remarks at a closed-door Texas fundraiser insulting Iowa’s current Republican Senator Charles Grassley.

“It’s very important to have farmers in Iowa,” Ernst said as she set up her attack on Braley. “You poked fun at Senator Grassley for being just a farmer from Iowa without a law degree.”  

The moderators began to move on when Braley interrupted, calling Ernst’s line an attack that warranted a response.   

“Senator Ernst, you know that I apologized to Senator Grassley right away,” he said.  

Additionally, Ernst laughed off national Democrats’ strategy aligning her with the Koch brothers and denied signing a pledge from the conservative billionaires.

“You called them ‘wonderful’ in that meeting and credited them with launching your Senate campaign,” Braley said. “I stand with Iowans who want secret donor money out of Iowa politics forever.”

Braley challenged Ernst: “I call on you right now Senator Ernst to join me in committing to telling all of these outside groups to take these ads down and let Iowans decide this election.” 

Ernst never accepted Braley’s challenge but agreed that reforms ought to be made. “I’m getting outspent by $2 million from these very organizations that are supporting Congressman Braley,” she said.   

Iowa and Senate

Braley and Ernst spar in round two of Iowa debate