Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst secured a second term on Tuesday night after a long-fought race against Theresa Greenfield that kept people guessing which way this swing state would break.
The Associated Press called the race at 11:37 p.m. for Ernst. The senator leads Greenfield 51.9% to 45.1%.
Ernst, the outsider candidate in 2014 who rode a red wave to victory, coming into 2020, was seen as a rising star in the Republican Party. In 2015 she delivered the Republican response to then-president Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, and was in consideration by Donald Trump in 2016 to be his running mate. In 2017, she was elected to a leadership position within the Republican caucus.
Ernst enjoyed a 57% approval rating in February 2019, according to the Des Moines Register Iowa Poll, but when Ernst officially kicked off her 2020 campaign with the Roast and Ride in June 2019 and Democrats entered the fray to take her on, her popularity began to trickle down. Once Democrats felt more confident about their chances of taking back the Senate, money started pouring into Iowa, making it the second-most expensive Senate race in the country.
Though Democrats were optimistic coming into Election Day, Greenfield did not run up large enough margins in the state’s largest counties or win back some of the coveted Mississippi River counties that used to be pivotal to statewide wins for Democrats.
The Iowa Poll released on Saturday showed Ernst leading Greenfield by 4 percentage points — the first time of the cycle she led the poll in a matchup with Greenfield. At campaign events over the weekend, Republicans were giddy with news of Ernst and Trump’s lead in Iowa heading into Election Day.
Iowa’s election results are unofficial until ballot canvasses are conducted. County officials must hold canvasses in all 99 counties by Nov. 10. The statewide canvass will be completed by Nov. 30 and then the Iowa Executive Council certifies the results. Absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 2 and received by noon Nov. 9 will be counted.
By Elizabeth Meyer
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