Raise your hand if you thought things would ever turn so astonishingly bad for Donald Trump that the state of Iowa would actually be in play for Democrats this election cycle.  

After all the dirty laundry – the affairs, the bribes, coercion, abuses of power, obstruction of Congress, collusion (or “no collusion,” depending on your gullibility), racist dog whistles, endless misogyny, rolling back of gay rights, locking kids in cages, Pine-Sol injections, tear-gassing protestors, politicizing the U.S. military, blood-red Christmas trees in the White House, paper towel volleyball, government shutdowns, sharpies on weather maps, and the motely crew of law-breakers, bumblers, traitors and gangsters that has been rotating through the government the past three and a half years – the worst president in American history, who survives solely by ruling with equal measure inhumane brutality and disarming stupidity, seemed improbably poised, if not likely, to win a second term.

But four months of a deadly pandemic and two weeks of surprisingly enduring protesting in the streets have finally managed to expose cracks in the Death Star.  Battleground states are all teetering towards blue.  And Iowa, a state Trump won by nine points in 2016 now has the president in a statistical tie with Joe Biden.  If Trump can’t pull even a meager win in the Hawkeye State, you can be certain down-ballot races could readily benefit Democrats as well. 

And suddenly, to no one’s surprise more than her own, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is in big trouble.

So now I find myself having to quickly learn about Republican Joni Ernst.  Luckily, she’s about as predictable as it gets.  Ernst is a hard-line Trump boot licker with a marshmallow spine, and one of the most conservative voices in the Senate.  She even went so far as to pull a “Susan Collins,” claiming Trump had learned his lesson from being impeached by the House (“he knows now… he needs to go through the proper channels”).

UNITED STATES – JANUARY 19: Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, attend a rally for Iowans in Russell Building prior to the anti-abortion March for Life on the Mall on January 19, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Joni Ernst is anti-gun control, anti-abortion, anti-immigration, an opponent of gay marriage, and is a close ally to former Congressman Steve King.  Remember Steve King?  He was the nine-term Congressman who was primaried this year and lost the nomination to state Sen. Randy Feenstra.  He’s also the guy who wondered aloud when the terms “white nationalism” and “white supremacy” became offensive. This led to King being stripped of all his committee assignments, and even barred from Air Force One, an astounding accomplishment considering these days it provides all racists with complimentary top hats and black face upon boarding.

Yes, Joni Ernst thought she was safe, but now suddenly finds herself running behind Democrat Theresa Greenfied, a businesswoman and mother of four, campaigning on expansion of The Affordable Care Act, increasing access to capital for small businesses, expanding public pre-kindergarten, the full funding of Pell Grants, and protecting Social Security and Medicaid.  Having lost her husband in the late 1980s while she was pregnant with their second child, Theresa credits Social Security survivor benefits as a prime factor in keeping her family afloat.

The first Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll since the state’s June 2nd primary has Ernst trailing Greenfield by three percentage points.  This is very bad news for the sitting Senator who originally won her seat in 2014 by nearly ten points, and was expected to have an easy road to re-election.

I took the time to watch Ernst lock horns with her Democratic challenger Bruce Braley in a 2014 debate.  After suffering through an hour of these two moderately-talented but hopelessly stiff candidates attempt to demonstrate a pulse, I’m surprised Iowa ended up having any senator at all.  Though most of the debate was the typical runs of avoidance and mis-representation, I’m sure Ernst is newly regretting one particular answer in regards to then-President Barack Obama’s handling of the Ebola outbreak. 

“We are seeing failed leadership coming from the congressman and President Obama. We have seen the threat from Ebola for the past several months, and only today did they call a hearing to address the lack of leadership within the departments out there. We should have moved this up and been working on travel bans much earlier than this, before it ever came on to American shores.”

Joni Ernst on President Obama’s reaction to the Ebola outbreak, 2014.

Compare that to Joni Ernst on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic:

“I think the president has actually handled it quite well, so I think it helps.  I think he took some really great initial steps … the left was just hammering him on that and it was the right thing to do. And so, I think the president has done quite well.”

Joni Ernst on President Trump’s handling of the Covid outbreak, 2020

For the record, as of today, 118,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus.  Only two died during the 2014 Ebola spread.

Ernst has worn her support of Donald Trump like a merit badge these past three and a half years. The best she can do in opposition to his tyrannical rule and abuse of power is an occasional wrist-slap on Twitter.  I suppose it’s admirable of her not to suddenly disavow Trump the way she so quickly did with her former supporter and friend, Steve King. But there’s no denying that Joni Ernst has lashed herself to the wrong president, and the only just punishment is a political career that goes down in flames.  Once considered a possible running mate for Donald Trump, Ernst may now become known as the less-than-savvy Senator responsible for letting a seat slip out of Republican hands, leading to the party’s loss of control of the chamber entirely.

Of course, that’s only if we help Theresa Greenfield take advantage of the moment.  November is still a long way off.

Theresa Greenfield is endorsed by EMILY’s List, End Citizens United, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and two gun control organizations: The Brady Campaign, and Giffords, co-founded by assassination survivor Rep. Gabby Giffords

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