In a move unusual for an incumbent senator, Iowa Republican Joni Ernst challenged Democrat Theresa Greenfield to six debates between now and Election Day, a tactic other at-risk senators are employing across the country as Mitch McConnell fights to maintain his narrow hold on the U.S. Senate.
On Monday morning, a short video was posted on Ernst’s campaign Twitter account accusing Greenfield of parroting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. She then proposed two debates per month, beginning in August, so Iowans can “hear what we have to say.”
— Joni Ernst (@joniernst) June 22, 2020
The call for more debates is a time-honored tactic typically used by candidates challenging an incumbent, not the sitting politician.
In response, the Greenfield campaign said she “looks forward to debates this fall — just like how she participated in three televised debates and six public forums in the primary.”
“After a new poll showing her trailing, Sen. Ernst continues to follow Mitch McConnell’s desperate playbook for other failing senators around the country,” said communications director Sam Newton, in a statement.
Multiple political journalists took to Twitter this morning to point out the parallels between Ernst’s video and statements from Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Steve Daines of Montana and Cory Gardner of Colorado, all of whom are considered vulnerable in November.
As @SenJoniErnst challenges @GreenfieldIowa to six debates, this reverses the usual dynamic of a lesser known challenger seeking ample debate time to be viewed on equal footing with the incumbent. This is Ernst's acknowledgement she is trailing Greenfield. https://t.co/72uzHcCTVj
— Trip Gabriel (@tripgabriel) June 22, 2020
Ernst joins Tillis, Gardner, Daines in calling for extensive number of general election debates. https://t.co/2f4cWH0x34
— James Arkin (@JamesArkin) June 22, 2020
Ernst challenges Greenfield to six debates in Iowa Senate race – which an incumbent does when losing https://t.co/Fo7uJLlQMB
— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) June 22, 2020
At the start of the year, Tillis challenged North Carolina’s Democratic nominee to five general election debates. And on June 1, he still was hammering that message on Twitter.
A good leader should have the courage to stand in front of the people he wishes to represent to defend his record and vision for the future, and I’m willing to do so as many times as possible. https://t.co/04lrjpBTEC
— Thom Tillis (@ThomTillis) June 1, 2020
In Montana, one day after former presidential candidate Gov. Steve Bullock won the Democratic nomination, Sen. Daines’ campaign sent a letter to Bullock’s campaign manager alerting her to the four debate invitations the Republican senator already had accepted.
And in Colorado, where Cook Political Report has designated Gardner’s race as one of “Republicans’ biggest worries,” he proposed five debates before knowing the winner of the Democratic primary, which takes place June 30.
Republicans hold a 53-45 advantage in the Senate. Two senators are Independents. In 2020, Republicans are defending 23 seats compared to Democrats’ 12.
By Elizabeth Meyer
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