The battle for control of the U.S. Senate in 2020 may be decided in the cornfields of Iowa.
Incumbent Republican Senator Joni Ernst is a rising star in the GOP and her seat is supposed to be safe. But nothing is safe for Republicans now, after Donald Trump’s trade war. Trump’s tariffs have caused massive financial problems for Iowa farmers who have depended on exports to China to stay solvent.
And, according to a report in POLITICO, Ernst has been facing huge amounts of criticism from Iowa voters for not standing up to Trump on his trade policies (or anything else).
Trump is not popular now in Iowa, and not standing up to him will definitely hurt Ernst when she runs for re-election next year.
Ernst has been hammered with questions from her constituents at recent town hall meetings, but they aren’t questions about policies.
According to POLITICO:
“One after one, constituents took to the microphone to grill the first-term Republican senator about the president — his attacks on John McCain, his emergency declaration at the border and why, in the opinion of several voters, Ernst hasn’t stood up to him more often.”
“Other senators are speaking up criticizing Trump and defending McCain, but I have yet to hear one word from you,” the report states one voter pressed her. “Is there no line Trump can cross that would cause you to break ranks with him?”
The irony is that Ernst is seen as a rising Republican star mainly because she has been very loyal to the president, and has never criticized him. But this loyalty to Trump may cause her to lose her Senate seat.
Ernst has been avoiding the questions by saying she has disagreed with Trump, but that hasn’t allowed her to stop talking about the issues she wants to address to help Iowans.
“Her reelection in the conservative-leaning state, which Trump carried easily in 2016, is not a foregone conclusion,” the POLITICO report says. It then goes on to discuss the fact that Democrats in Iowa did very well in the 2018 midterms:
“Democrats flipped two GOP-held seats in Iowa last year, and Trump’s approval ratings have sunk as his trade wars have stretched on. Barack Obama won the state twice and Ernst’s predecessor, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, represented the state for three decades.”
One of the Iowa senator’s colleagues, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said Ernst has her work cut out for her, saying Iowa is not “a ruby-red state.”
Former Democratic Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack has been attacking Ernst for being too close to Trump, saying, “She has essentially been an enabler of many of the Trump policies that aren’t particularly good for Iowa,” in a recent interview.
Democrat Rob Sand, who is considered a frontrunner to take her on in 2020, has also ramped up his attacks.
“She sold herself as this Harley-wearing, gun-shooting, pig-castrating person who really would stand up and be tough and she hasn’t been tough,” he said before adding, “She’s just taking orders from Mitch McConnell.”
“Trump’s trade war with China is a huge issue in Iowa. The tariffs have slammed the state’s soybean industry, a big part of Iowa’s economy. Iowa State University last year projected the tariffs could cost the state’s farmers up to $2.2 billion in revenue,” POLITICO reported.
The situation faced by Joni Ernst in Iowa shows that Republican control of the U.S. Senate is in jeopardy. As more negative information comes out about Trump — and as the economy continues to weaken — GOP incumbents in swing states like Iowa will find that they are at risk.
If there is a Big Blue Wave in 2020 then loyal Trump supporters like Joni Ernst will be packing their bags and leaving Washington as Democrats take over control of the entire U.S. government.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.
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