With only two weeks to go until polls close on Nov. 3, the barrage of TV, radio, newspaper and social media ads is relentless in the final stretch, particularly when Iowa has a hotly contested race that plays a significant role in which party will control the Senate next year.
Behind North Carolina, Iowa is the second-most expensive U.S. Senate race this cycle. A Des Moines Register analysis shows, as of Oct. 13, more than $151 million has been spent or reserved on TV to boost Sen. Joni Ernst and Theresa Greenfield. Of that, The Register reported, $113 million is being spent by political parties and issue groups. Across all federal races, spending has topped $208 million.
This article takes a look at some of the recent ads outside groups are putting in front of Iowans. (To see what a week’s worth of political mailers looks like here, check out this subreddit post.)
Paid Leave for All Action
Banner ads on local and national news websites, billboards on Interstate 235, as well as radio and Pandora spots are the focus of a six-figure campaign Paid Leave for All Action is launching in Iowa “to raise awareness of the need for paid family and medical leave during the pandemic.”
The ads focuses on Sen. Joni Ernst’s vote in March against an amendment to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to provide paid family leave in the United States.
“Senator Joni Ernst pays lip service to paid leave but voted against it — and against expanding emergency protections that left out up to 704,000 workers across the state of Iowa,” said Sue Dinsdale, executive director of Iowa Citizen Action Network. “We need real paid leave, not proposals like her Cradle Act that would rob our future Social Security and take away from our retirements, especially in times of crisis. Paid leave saves lives and saves jobs.”
National Republican Congressional Committee
Daily Kos reported on Monday the open seat in Iowa’s 2nd District is seeing the most outside spending of any House race in the country from the top four committees.
As of Monday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC spent a combined $4.9 million to boost Rita Hart. For Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the National Republican Congressional Committee and Congressional Leadership Fund have spent $5.7 million.
The Cook Political Report considers this to be one of the most competitive House races in the country and estimates it is the only open Democratic seat in danger of flipping red.
The NRCC’s latest ad against Hart perpetuates a debunked claim that Hart, who was raised on a dairy farm and currently farms with her husband, wants to “phase out” and “shut down” family farms.
The ad also plays to the extreme notion that Democrats want to eliminate chicken, hogs and cattle in favor meatless food only.
“Rita Hart: fewer jobs, higher taxes and veggie burgers,” the narrator says ominously.
With the Senate Judiciary Committee slated to vote Thursday on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Democrats are protesting today in Ernst’s hometown against her support for Barrett.
Progress Iowa purchased a full-page ad in the Red Oak Express urging voters to call Ernst and ask that senators delay confirming Barrett until after Inauguration Day in January. The ad also warns that “supporting Trump’s Supreme Court pick takes away Iowa’s health care.”
Progress Iowa also has reserved billboard space across from the Des Moines airport “with a message urging Iowans to tell Ernst and Grassley that a vote for Judge Barrett is a vote against Iowa’s health care.”
United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters
In light of Ernst’s inability at a recent debate to recall the breakeven price of soybeans, the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA) is launching a 60-second ad Wednesday on rural radio stations across the state with audio from the debate.
“Who do you think is more in touch with Iowa?” the narrator asks. “Ernst once said: ‘The president did the right thing by ratcheting up the tariffs on China.’ No wonder she supported the tariffs. She doesn’t even know the price of soybeans. Farmers can’t trust Joni Ernst.”
In addition to the radio ad, UA also has a website dedicated to the ways Ernst has done wrong by farmers and the state’s agricultural economy.
Democrats and their issue-aligned groups have heavily criticized Senate Republicans in recent weeks for holding confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nominee rather than vote on a much-needed coronavirus stimulus package.
Over the weekend, Demand Justice launched a new TV ad in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina — states Democrats see as top pick-up opportunities — and nationwide on cable.
The ad notes how COVID-19 has impacted President Trump and the first lady, in addition to White House staff and Senate Republicans, yet Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “will stop at nothing to jam through a lifetime Supreme Court appointment.”
As a new member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ernst has faced criticism in her close reelection race for reversing her stance on whether a Supreme Court nominee should be confirmed in an election year.
NRA Institute for Legislative Action
Once a critical piece to Ernst’s political rise, the National Rifle Association and its political arm, NRA Victory Fund, have invested significantly less in the 2020 cycle than in past years due to legal scrutiny of Wayne LaPierre and how the tax-exempt organization spends its money.
Despite its scaled-back presence in Ernst’s race this year — compared to 2014 when the NRA spent $3.1 million on her behalf — the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (financed by the NRA and NRA Victory Fund) has ads up on Facebook and Instagram touting her as a “proven patriot and fearless fighter.”
In the last 30 days, the NRA and NRA Victory Fund have spent $66,214 on Facebook ads in Iowa, the most it has spent in any other Midwestern state other than Michigan.
Brady PAC, Women Vote!
A gun violence prevention group has teamed up with Women Vote!, the independent expenditure arm of EMILY’s List, to target rural Iowans with an ad about Ernst’s willingness to discuss Social Security reform “behind closed doors.”
The ad accuses Ernst of supporting the privatization of Social Security, while praising Greenfield for not accepting corporate PAC donations.
“That’s why we can trust Greenfield to protect our Social Security,” the narrator says.
With a focus on reaching women, the TV ad also will air digitally on iHeart Radio, Pandora, Facebook, YouTube and Google’s ad platform.
The ads are part of a “nearly $1 million TV and digital ad campaign in Iowa in an effort to defeat Joni Ernst.”
A print and radio ad campaign is being waged by Indivisible to defeat vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection this year, including Ernst. The ads are running in “deeply rural and conservative areas,” with some airing in Spanish.
“In Iowa, Indivisible is running two Spanish language ads focusing on Ernst’s betrayal of the middle class since her election — from her abandonment of families impacted by COVID-19 to her votes for billionaires and corporations,” Indivisible said in a press release. “Another ad, set to run on rural radio stations, hits Ernst for her support of big pharma and insurance companies over the needs of Iowa families struggling with health care costs.”
The rural radio ad is one of the more amusing Starting Line has heard this cycle, with “Peter Pig” and “Henry Hog” lamenting how Ernst has failed to “make Washington squeal.”
“After six years in power, the only things squealing are Iowans,” the swine say amid barnyard noises in the background. “Since going to the Senate, Ernst has bellied up to the trough, taking almost $155,000 in campaign cash from drug companies. And her record on health care has earned her flunking grades from the American Public Health Association. Joni went from castrating us to gutting the middle class.”
By Elizabeth Meyer
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