Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst is headed back to the U.S. Senate after fending off a determined effort by Democrat Theresa Greenfield in a race that will play a major role in deciding which party will control the Senate come January.
Iowa wasn’t seen as being among the easiest seats for Democrats to flip in 2020, but that changed as the cycle moved on and Greenfield found herself being able to capitalize off strong fundraising as Trump’s polling in the state dipped amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite being out-fundraised and out-spent by her Democratic opponent, Ernst was able to hang on to the seat with a campaign that relied heavily on her Iowa bona fides and attempts to tout herself as a bipartisan voice in the Republican caucus.
Even as polling showed the president’s chances in Iowa narrowing, Ernst did little to separate herself from the president as she ran for her second term. She also found herself in a controversial position in September after The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported the Republican lawmaker answered a question at an event by saying she was “so skeptical” of official COVID-19 figures—a comment that amounted to indulging in a ridiculous conspiracy about over-counting deaths. She later backtracked on the comments according to the Associated Press.
Ernst also stuck by Trump and didn’t show a sense of alarm about the president bringing her down in the state, according to The New York Times, even as polls showed both her and the president struggling.
“There may be issues where people will disagree with the president, but they’ll be supportive of me,” Ernst told reporters in October, according to the newspaper. “So it’s really up to those Iowans to go out and make that decision, but I hope they do recognize that Iowa is where I was born and raised and Iowans are the people that I care about.”
Greenfield out-raised the incumbent by more than $21 million in the third quarter of fundraising, according to Open Secrets. But even that haul wasn’t enough in the final month of the campaign to oust Ernst from office.