Senator Joni Ernst successfully defended her seat in a close race against Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield.
Ernst, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, won her candidacy for re-election by about seven points, although the ballots were still being counted when Fox News and Associated Press made the call. On election day, after months of almost even counting of votes, she had a two point lead on the green field.
The eyes were on the race for the Iowa Senate because of its national implications. According to the Des Moines Register, the Senate race was the second most expensive in U.S. history, and toppling Ernst from office would have given the Democrats one of the four seats they need to control the Senate majority.
A reassuring result for the Republicans, since Ernest’s seat was considered one of the seats most likely to fall, and the Register reported that Greenfield beat Ernest by a 4-1 lead.
Ernst campaigned with President Donald Trump and urged his supporters to vote for them, saying at a rally in Dubuque on Sunday: “We have to get Joni Ernst to vote.
“She’s a great person and she’s fighting really hard for the state,” Trump said after welcoming Ernst on stage.
The senator visited all 99 districts in Iowa, and Tim Hagle, professor of political science at the University of Iowa, told Washington Newsday that the nationwide tour helped her connect with voters and establish a name. Days before the election, he predicted that Ernst would win and that she would do so with a greater lead than Trump.
“It just seems unlikely that someone who votes for Trump would not vote for Ernst, there is no way to calculate that,” Hagle said. “Whereas with Trump the opposite might be true and someone who votes for Ernst might not vote for the President.
The Republicans had the advantage over Democrats who went to the polls in that they had about 20,000 more registered voters, according to the Secretary of State’s office. This is the first election in 20 years in which voters registered for a political party exceeded the number of “non-party” voters, also known as independents. The trend began in June, when the Democrats took the lead, and since then both parties have continued to increase their voter base, but by late October the Republicans had more supporters.
However, one-third of the state’s voters are considered “not a party,” and in a purple state like Iowa, they can be the swing vote that puts a Democrat or Republican in office. Serious support among the independents grew as the election approached. In September, Greenfield had a 15-point lead, according to a Des Moines Register poll, but the last outlet poll in October showed that the tide had turned for Ernst, giving her an 8-point lead.
As a member of the National Guard, district auditor and state senator, Ernst used her resume to show Iowans that she cares about the state. Greenfield also referred to herself as a true Iowan and affectionately referred to herself as a “scrappy farm kid” after growing up on a farm.
In the final days of the election, Ernst encouraged undecided voters to consider her record as proof that she is the best candidate for Iowa. Greenfield, who has not held an elected office and therefore cannot show her political record, criticized Ernst for not knowing the price of a soybean to portray her as out of touch with the real Iowa.
Greenfield proved to be a strong competitor, but her message and the support of nationwide organizations were not enough to oust the incumbent from office, and Ernst will represent Iowa again in Washington, D.C.