Joni Ernst waves after speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa August 9, 2014.
Photo by Brian Frank/Reuters

Democrats: Joni Ernst is the next Sarah Palin


Democrats are trying to paint Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst as the next Sarah Palin in an attempt to sway voters in the state’s tight Senate race.

“Joni Ernst would be another tea party vote in the Senate,” a voice in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s latest ad says. “Palin, Ernst: too extreme for Iowa.” The DSCC tells msnbc the ad is “the first spot in a multi-million dollar ad campaign that will run statewide from now until election day.”

Ernst is running for an open Senate seat in Iowa against Democrat Bruce Braley. Recent polling shows Ernst polling just slightly ahead of Braley, but the race is competitive.

Palin endorsed Ernst earlier this summer. And while Ernst is quoted in the ad as saying that she was “ecstatic” to get Palin’s endorsement, Ernst’s spokesman Gretchen Hamel called the ad  a “false attack.”

“Washington liberal Bruce Braley and his elitist D.C. allies have once again been caught red-handed trying to lie and mislead Iowans,” Hamel told msnbc in an email. “Not only is their attack false but Time Magazine reports that Iowa’s Joni Ernst is in fact a consensus builder. With his campaign in shambles, Braley and his liberal allies have decided to run a campaign that tears down the character of Joni Ernst who is mother, solider and independent leader for Iowa.”

For its part, the DSCC offered up its own fact-check on the ad’s claims: Ernst herself has said she doesn’t support a minimum wage, they claim, while celebrating the budget proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, which slashed taxes for millionaires. Ernst also voiced support for a more privatized system of Social Security for younger and future workers, the DSCC says.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Democratic National Convention Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz called Ernst “an onion of crazy.” “The more you peel back the layers, the more disturbing it is,” she said.

The candidate’s folksy demeanor (she made headlines in her crowded primary race with an ads promising to make Washington “squeal” the same way she had: castrating pigs) and conservative positions have prompted Palin comparisons all summer long, and Democrats are clearly hoping the connection will mobilize liberals against her.

Still, not all of Ernst’s endorsements are from the far right: Establishment Republicans like former Gov. Mitt Romney and the Chamber of Commerce have also celebrated her candidacy. 

Palin is largely unpopular with Democrats and Independents, and even four in ten Republican voters, a recent NBC News poll revealed. But she’s been ramping up her political commentary as she launches her new website,—a subscription-based website that aims to be the home for Palin politics and her fans.