Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) is not often discussed as one of the top prospective targets for Democrats in 2020. But as Margaret Carlson wrote for The Daily Beast on Thursday, she could be much more vulnerable than conventional wisdom says — thanks to President Donald Trump.
"In normal times, Ernst would be favored to win reelection," wrote Carlson. "She’s the Harley-riding combat veteran known for an ad in which she promised to castrate the forces of evil in Washington the way she castrated pigs at home. In 2014, in a state that sent retiring Democrat Tom Harkin to Washington for 30 years, she won by nine points."
2014, however, was a completely different political environment.
"Ernst didn’t have Trump on the ballot in 2014," wrote Carlson. "Now, she’s running with him in 2020 with many farmers mad as hell. Ernst hovers around a 50-percent approval; Trump’s net approval has fallen 20 points since he took office, according to the latest Morning Consult polls. He gets most of the blame for the loss of two Iowa House seats in the 2018 midterms."
The main thing dragging Trump down in Iowa, wrote Carlson? His trade war.
"The rural vote was crucial to Trump flipping the state," wrote Carlson. "Farmers are used to battling acts of God, like the floods that have hit the Midwest this year, but not coping with a capricious act of man that has cut soybeans prices by 50 percent since 2014, costing Iowa farmers an estimated $2.2 billion, according to Iowa State University, and farmers nationally $10 billion, according to the American Farm Bureau. Farmers stay up nights wrestling with whether to give up on soybeans and plant something else, knowing that the something else could well be targeted later, should the mood strike Trump."
Throughout all this, Ernst has done nothing to stand up to Trump's tariffs, other than sign onto a bill requesting the Pentagon provide a national security reason for them. "Unlike the Manhattan-dwelling Trump who barely knew a 'great patriot farmer' before he started campaigning in flyover country, Ernst knows what they’re going through but can’t quite bring herself to question the president’s wisdom."
That, wrote Carlson, could come back to haunt her as Democrats begin to field a strong challenger, most notably businesswoman and self-proclaimed "farm kid with farm values" Theresa Greenfield. "Iowa is one of five states the national party is targeting to turn the Senate Democratic ... With storage bins groaning with unsold soybeans, Trump and by association Ernst, have no place to go but down."
"Ernst may need a bigger animal than a stuck pig, metaphorically and in reality, to overcome Trump’s drag on the ticket," concluded Carlson. "Her bland 'Let’s focus on getting the trade deals done' and bragging about what a boon it is to her constituents that Trump takes her calls is no substitute for telling him to stop using her farmers to make a political point. It’s not about getting Trump on the line. The election will be about saving farmers who may well have planted their last row of soybeans because of him."