Iowa’s U.S. Senate election is over a year out, yet we already have the first candidate TV ad up of the cycle.
Democratic candidate Michael Franken, a retired three-star Navy admiral, launched his first television ad today criticizing Republican Joni Ernst for her “dereliction of duty” as a senator and veteran.
“As veterans, Joni and I both know that Trump’s actions would merit a court martial,” said Franken, a retired Navy vice admiral. “And Joni’s indifference is a dereliction of duty.”
Franken is one of four Democrats looking to unseat Ernst in 2020.
Since House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry Sept. 24 into President Trump, Ernst has refused to condemn the president for asking a foreign government to investigate a political opponent.
“Senator Ernst chooses blind obedience to Donald Trump and his Administration, rather than serving the people who elected her and the U.S. Constitution, and that’s shameful,” said Jordan Overstreet, Franken’s campaign manager, Tuesday in a statement. “As a veteran, she should understand that truly serving your country means standing up for what’s right over political expediency. That’s real patriotism.”
A Fox News Poll released last week showed 51% of registered voters want Trump impeached and removed from office.
According to Franken’s campaign, he is the first Democratic Senate candidate to feature a TV ad challenging a Republican incumbent on the impeachment issue. The RNC ran ads criticizing Iowa’s Democratic House incumbents on the issue for a week, with a Democratic-aligned group then going up with supportive ads — though not ones that specifically mentioned impeachment.
At the top of the 30-second ad, Franken pointed to Republican Barry Goldwater and his call to conservatives to support the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.
“When Goldwater urged Nixon to resign, he lived up to that promise” to follow his conscience, Franken said, in the ad. “Sen. Joni Ernst has not, by toeing her party’s line on impeachment.”
The use of Goldwater, a Fox News quote and the heavy military themes may be a way to signal to Democratic primary voters of how Franken would try to peel off conservative voters in general election.
Franken, raised in Northwest Iowa, spent his military career in Washington, D.C., and traveling the world before retiring two days after Trump was elected.
It is not entirely clear how the impeachment process will play out politically across the country, and Franken has been running an aggressive message against Ernst early on, though he still must prevail in the four-way Democratic primary.
The new ad begins running today on cable TV in Iowa.
By Elizabeth Meyer