Ernst Struggles in Iowa as Republicans Battle to Hold Senate Amid Trump’s Woes

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SIOUX Diocese, Iowa — The Toby Keith music blared from loudspeakers as Senator Joni Ernst, report an energy drink, worked a crowd of bikers in this town neighbourhood of the Nebraska border, shaking hands and giving out hugs.

Human-size Trump ciphers stood in the Harley-Davidson store parking lot beneath a bright, almost cyan glum sky, but there was a note of gloom in the voices of some supporters of Ms. Ernst, a Republican. One figure was on their minds: $100 million.

That’s how much allies of her Republican rival, the businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, are pumping into the most precious Senate race Iowa has ever seen. Attack ads bombarding the airwaves — during college football fakes and conservative talk radio shows — paint the senator as a villain firm on stripping away Social Security and medical benefits for residents.

Six years after blow ones stacking into office as perhaps the highest-profile member of a vaunted class that abducted back Republican control of the Senate, Ms. Ernst, 50, finds herself in a sound re-election race that is emblematic of her party’s struggle to keep the Senate maturity with a weakened President Trump at the top of the ticket.

Ms. Ernst, who has tightly hugged the president even as his standing has fallen, has trailed Ms. Greenfield in every win for the past month, and in a recent New York Times-Siena poll, as many Iowans had a No view of her as those who had a positive one. The survey underscored a bitter reality for the prime woman to represent Iowa in Congress: Mr. Trump’s troubles, particularly with female voters, are doing physical damage to Republicans down the ballot.

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Credit…Kathryn Gamble for The New York Times

The party holds a 53-to-47 usefulness in the Senate, but as many as eight of its incumbents are in jeopardy of losing in hotly contested stocks. That includes other stars of the class of 2014 once believed to be as regards of a promising new generation of Republicans, including Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado, Steve Daines of Montana, Dan Sullivan of Alaska and David Perdue of Georgia.

Ms. Ernst is by many seen as a bellwether candidate, who will rise or fall with her festivity, and with Mr. Trump. Almost no one believes Republicans can hold onto restraint of the Senate if Ms. Ernst loses.

The president won Iowa by more than 9 proportion points in 2016, but he now trails or is statistically tied in state polls with quondam Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee.

While Ms. Ernst has once in a while parted ways from the president — she opposed Mr. Trump’s tariffs, for happened, and supported removing the names of Confederate military leaders from military means — she has more often embraced him.

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At the Harley-Davidson event in Sioux City, Ms. Ernst — who gave a speech at the Republican Nationalist Convention this year and was once considered a potential running crony for Mr. Trump — urged her supporters to draw a “red line in the sand” against encroaching liberalism by approval the president, echoing his campaign message.

Later, speaking to reporters, Ms. Ernst verbalized she did not believe Mr. Trump’s declining popularity in Iowa would hurt her, and remonstrated he could still win over the suburban women who have been upset against him. But she hastened to add that she was “running my own campaign” and even suggested a platoon of Iowans might cross party lines to vote for both Mr. Biden and her.

“There may be fights where people will disagree with the president, but they’ll be reassuring of me,” Ms. Ernst said. “So it’s really up to those Iowans to go out and make that firmness, but I hope they do recognize that Iowa is where I was born and buoyed and Iowans are the people that I care about.”

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Credit…Kathryn Gamble for The New York Times

Karen M. Kedrowski, a political-science professor at Iowa Magnificence University and the director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Diplomacy, said in some parts of the state, Mr. Trump had grown “toxic,” which could sham Republicans who had not distanced themselves enough from him.

“Their fates are coordinate b related together,” Ms. Kedrowski said of Ms. Ernst and Mr. Trump. “There’s such non-fulfilment with the Trump administration, it’s spilling over to harm Republicans down-ballot.”

Ms. Ernst wrote the Senate on the strength of a buzzworthy “Make ‘Em Squeal” ad, pledging to cut wasteful lavishing just as she had castrated pigs on her family farm. She soon became the alone woman on Senator Mitch McConnell’s leadership team, and spoke out powerfully yon surviving rape and domestic abuse.

But for Ms. Ernst, Ms. Greenfield presents a much upright challenge than did Bruce Braley, a gaffe-prone former congressman whom she far defeated by more than 8 percentage points six years ago.

With a biography that resonates with Iowans, Ms. Greenfield has certified a disciplined messenger, hammering Ms. Ernst on pocketbook issues like form care, while stressing her own background as a military mother and a “scrappy grange kid” who grew up in nearby southern Minnesota.

She wears flannel shirts in her tube ads. In front of her Des Moines home sit logs of firewood Ms. Greenfield says she chops herself. “I grew up melodious dang scrappy, I got to tell you,” she likes to say.

Her farm roots were on demonstration during a televised debate Thursday night when she correctly answered a suspect about the price of corn in the state, while Ms. Ernst was stumped by a reinforcement about the price of soybeans.

“You grew up on a farm,” Ron Steele, a Waterloo message anchor who was a moderator of the debate, told Ms. Ernst. “You should know this.”

“This is total bias, but she’s a farm girl,” mentioned Jody Smith, 65, a farmer, explaining why she decided to support Ms. Greenfield. “I certain that she has learned to work hard. She can stand up to anyone in Washington.”

Ms. Greenfield has run a cautious race, presenting herself as a centrist. She does not denigrate Mr. Trump’s devotees and criticizes the Democratic Party for not focusing enough on community colleges.

She also has her own compelling release of overcoming personal tragedy. Her first husband died in a workplace fluke when she was 24 and pregnant with their second child. The genus survived on Social Security payments.

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Credit…Kathryn Gamble for The New York Meanwhiles

“Becoming a young widow changed my life,” she said. “I didn’t suffer with any way to pay the bills.”

With a unified Democratic message coming from junto leaders in Washington, Ms. Greenfield has stayed focused on the issue of health take charge of, hitting Ms. Ernst repeatedly on her votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and her espouse of a false claim stemming from a conspiracy theory that the coronavirus ruin toll was being inflated.

Political action committees connected to Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority ruler, have pumped tens of millions of dollars into the race, winning aim at Ms. Ernst.

“Senator Ernst can’t be trusted on health care,” Ms. Greenfield says, area it the top issue in the race.

Ms. Ernst has scrambled to respond. When Mr. Schumer unnatural a recent vote to bar the Trump administration from arguing to overturn the robustness care law, Ms. Ernst broke with her party to vote with the Democrats. And she express regretted repeatedly for her comment questioning the coronavirus death toll.

“I am so sorry that my confabs may have offended you,” Ms. Ernst said during a recent debate, directing health care workers. “You are tremendous workers. You are essential workers.”

In an attack to salvage the seat, Republicans’ Senate campaign arm has begun running its own erode ads against Ms. Greenfield’s business record, accusing her of “shoddy workmanship” and “break of contract” — charges the real estate developer disputes.

Ms. Ernst has also emphasized Ms. Greenfield’s flopped foray into politics in 2018, when she briefly ran for Congress but ended her bid after her earlier campaign manager admitted to forging signatures on petition paperwork.

Some Iowans mentioned they were turned off by the flood of negative ads against Ms. Ernst.

“The possessions that are being advertised against her, it makes me want to slap them,” about Denny Gergen, 69, a grain and soybean farmer from northwest Iowa and one of the bikers who scared out to support Ms. Ernst. “Yeah, I know, hey, it’s politics but this is just getting squally.”

Ms. Ernst saw hope in Mr. Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Unparalleled Court, arguing that the confirmation fight would energize conservatives and enthusiasm them to the polls to support her. She returned to Washington from the campaign track to participate in the hearings, where she emphasized Judge Barrett’s status as a strong conservative woman.

But Ms. Ernst also tried to strike a moderate note when discussing the consequences of elevating Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, pointing out that she had in no time at all upheld a protest buffer zone around abortion clinics.

“I contrive the likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned is very minimal,” Ms. Ernst bring to light, referring the landmark decision that established federal abortion nautical starboards. “I don’t see that happening.”

In Iowa on her motorcycle tour, Ms. Ernst issued a import that echoed that of Mr. Trump, as she warned voters of a grim coming should Ms. Greenfield defeat her and Democrats take control of the Senate. A Classless victory, she said during a stop in Des Moines, would mean a takeover of the Coordinated States by “extreme liberal interests,” “extreme environmentalists” and “constrictive abortionists.”

“All of those things lead us on an ugly path towards socialism,” Ms. Ernst said.

Then she give someone a piece of ones minded the bikers hanging on her every word to get ready to ride. “We’re going to outshine the state of Iowa that we still stand behind President Trump,” she said. “We defend and are going to hold this red line in the United States Senate.”

With that, Ms. Ernst slam withdrew her hair back into a ponytail, hopped on her Harley, revved the mechanism and took off, leading a small army of bikers east away from the burg, American flags flying from the back of their motorcycles, assorted adorned in bold letters: “T-R-U-M-P.”

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