Just last week, National Journal ran a piece noting that some Republican officials have started to “worry” about Joni Ernst, their party’s U.S. Senate candidate in Iowa. Her record of extremist positions and far-right comments “could sink Ernst’s campaign,” the piece noted.
Take the minimum wage, for example.
Ernst raised eyebrows last week when the very conservative state senator said a $7.25 minimum wage is “a great starter wage for many high school students.” Ernst was apparently unaware of the fact that most Americans who work for the minimum wage are adults.
Yesterday, Ernst went further, arguing the federal minimum should be $0 and states should set their own.
”The minimum wage is a safety net. For the federal government to set the minimum wage for all 50 states is ridiculous,” Ernst said Monday.“The standard of living in Iowa is different than it is in New York or California or Texas. One size does not fit all,” she said.
Ernst may not realize this, but the minimum wage varies by state. The federal government establishes a floor which states may not drop below, but Congress does not “set the minimum wage for all 50 states.”
Iowa may not have raised its minimum above $7.25, but plenty of other states have. Washington established one minimum standard, but states with higher living costs are welcome to raise their minimum wage to whatever they want.
It’s not clear what part of this Ernst considers “ridiculous.”
And speaking of Ernst, the Washington Post recently ran a piece noting that some Ernst critics are comparing the far-right Iowan to Sarah Palin. Jay Newton-Small isn’t buying the comparison.
All primary candidates say things they inevitably regret in the General Election and Ernst is no exception. Since the General Election has begun, videos of Ernst talking about Agenda 21, a Glenn Beck conspiracy theory about the United Nations’ superseding U.S. laws, states nullifying federal laws and impeaching Obama have surfaced. Ernst has since backpedaled from all of these statements, saying the impeachment talk, in particular, was taken out of context, arguing that she was answering a hypothetical question.
This strikes me as a very generous interpretation of recent developments. Ernst positioned herself as one of the most far-right statewide candidates in the country this year, but now that she’s positioning herself for the general election in a swing state, Ernst has “backpedaled” from some (but not all) of her extremist positions.
Newton-Small suggests the public should accept this backpedaling at face value – if Ernst claims she no longer stands by some of her radical comments, perhaps she’s being sincere about her positions and merely said extremist things before in order to appeal to the Iowa GOP’s right-wing base for the primary.
Or, alternatively, Ernst was being sincere before about her extremist positions and is backpedaling now to appeal to the Iowa mainstream for the general election.
That’s the tricky thing about watching candidates who shift their posture – it’s hard to say for sure which is the real deal.
The fact remains that Ernst has said she would ban abortions and many forms of birth control; she would privatize Social Security; she would back an anti-gay amendment to the Constitution; she’s open to impeaching President Obama for unknown reasons; and she believes there’s secret information that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction.
Ernst has also suggest states can nullify federal laws they don’t like; the war in Iraq shouldn’t have ended; people on Medicaid “have no personal responsibility for their health”; and now the federal minimum wage is “ridiculous.”
Under the circumstances, it seem Republican leaders have reason to “worry.”