Sen. Joni Ernst made it official on Friday, telling reporters she will run for reelection in 2020.
“I am running again. So to anyone who would like to step up and enter into that race, I say: ‘Bring it on,’” Ernst said.
The announcement was no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to Iowa politics since Ernst was elected to the Senate in 2014. The first-term senator’s other 2020 announcement on Friday was equally unsurprising: Ernst is all-in for the reelection of President Donald Trump.
“So I think that we have a solid path forward with President Trump,” Ernst said. “I think that his policies, if you focus on his policies, a lot of Iowans support those. So I wouldn’t welcome any other contenders.”
Ernst may be overly optimistic about the level of support for Trump in Iowa. Although Trump won Iowa with 51.1 percent of the vote in 2016, according to the most recent Iowa Poll, a majority of Iowans find Trump’s actions as president worrisome.
In the poll, conducted in September, 36 percent of respondents selected “Convinced everything is not normal/safe,” as the most accurate description of Trump’s policies, while 16 percent selected “A lot of concerns about what is happening,” and 24 percent went with “Some concerns about what is happening.” Only 24 percent of Iowans opted for “Convinced everything is safe/normal.” Seven percent said, “Not sure.”
Ernst, however, has been a loyal Trump follower since the president took office. In the Senate, she has voted with Trump 91 percent of the time, according to the data journalism site 538.
The divergence between Ernst’s view of Trump and the opinion other Iowans have of the president was on display during a Jan. 14 town hall meeting the senator held in her hometown of Red Oak.
During that meeting, members of the audience burst into laughter when Ernst claimed Trump’s leadership is respected around the world. The following day at a town hall in Boone, Ernst was asked if she thought Trump is a racist.
“Deep inside, no, I don’t think he’s a racist,” Ernst replied. “I think he’s brash and he says things that are on his mind, but I don’t truly believe that he’s a racist.”
This time the audience groaned in response.
Polling conducted by the Morning Consult between April and September found Ernst had a steady approval rating of 42 percent. There was a slight fluctuation in her disapproval rating, but it was 37 percent in both the first and last poll.