State Sen. Joni Ernst’s big win in Iowa’s Republican Senate primary Tuesday sets up one of the year’s most closely-watched races.
Before Tuesday, the question was whether Ernst could break out of a multi-candidate field and get the 35 percent needed to win outright. She shattered expectations, winning 56.2 percent with nearly all precincts reporting.
She now faces Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat, in the battle to succeed Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who is retiring. Braley is considered a slight favorite by independent analysts.
Republicans are particularly eager for this campaign. Ernst had backing from both tea party groups and the Republican establishment, and showed herself to be a savvy campaigner with her reminders that she’s a mother, a farmer and a soldier. She served in the Iraq war.
If elected, Ernst would be the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress
Republicans need a net gain of six seats in November to win control of the Senate.