Joni Ernst will be the Republican nominee for Senate in Iowa, facing off against Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley for the open seat vacated by retiring Senator Tom Harkin.
Ernst, a state senator, burst from relative obscurity to become a rising national GOP star with an eyebrow-raising ad in which she argued her experience castrating hogs on a farm prepared her for dealing with Washington. Unlike other populist conservative candidates this year, she proved adept at winning endorsements from tea party and establishment leaders alike, from Sarah Palin to Mitt Romney. She easily defeated businessman Mark Jacobs to win the nomination on Tuesday.
Braley has led early polls in the race, and Democrats are hopeful that Ernst’s strident conservatism will be too much for Iowa, which voted twice for President Obama. Republicans, meanwhile, hope Ernst’s personal charisma will give her a leg up in the race.