Sen. Joni Ernst says Trump’s tweets are racist, but that doesn’t change her support for him

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Joni Ernst’s official portrait, 2019.

Sen. Joni Ernst wants to make one thing clear: President Donald Trump’s latest racist statements haven’t diminished her support for him.

“I’d love for you to make that clear,” Ernst told Politico on Tuesday. “While I don’t appreciate the tweets, but I still support the president.”

Ernst’s reaffirmation of her loyalty to Trump came one day after she’d said Trump’s tweets on Sunday aimed at four members of the House of Representatives who are women of color were racist.

The Iowa senator was reluctant to comment about Trump’s tweets on Monday, but when pressed by Capitol Hill reporters about whether she thought the tweets were racist, Ernst finally said, “Yeah, I do.”

Ernst started backing away from that assessment later Monday. In a written statement provided to WHO-TV in Des Moines, Ernst said paying attention to the president’s racism was a distraction keeping people from focusing on what she considers a real problem — the policy goals of Democrats.

“This isn’t constructive; we should stay focused on debating the issues and the radical policy agenda they’re pushing,” Ernst said in her statement.

By Tuesday, Ernst wanted the public to know “there is no daylight between her and the president,” according to Politico’s reporters, even though she doesn’t “appreciate” the tweets she had conceded were racist less than 24 hours earlier.

Ernst is running for reelection in 2020, and has made her loyalty to Trump a central focus of her campaign. According to the most recent Federal Election Filings, Ernst raised $2.8 million between January and July this year, and her reelection campaign had $3.4 million on hand at the beginning of this month.

Last week, Ernst’s campaign highlighted the fact that it has received at least one contribution from each of Iowa’s 99 counties this year. But an analysis of Ernst’s fundraising by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) provides a broader perspective on the senator’s fundraising.

CRP found that 63.6 percent of contributions to Ernst’s campaign since 2015 have come from out of state. In her first Senate run in 2014, a total of 72 percent of her campaign contributions came from outside of Iowa.

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