Joni Ernst made her opponents squeal like pigs on Tuesday night.
The Republican nominee for Senate in Iowa, propelled to first place in the race by an ad in which she talked about castrating piglets, romped to victory by a landslide, winning more than 50 percent of the vote in a five-way race.
Ernst, a state senator from southwest Iowa, bested a crowded field that included businessman Mark Jacobs and professor and radio host Sam Clovis. She boasted of her service in the National Guard throughout the campaign, describing herself as “a mother, a soldier, and a conservative.” She also devoted significant effort to beefing up her conservative bona fides in an effort to win over a primary electorate skeptical of Republicans with establishment backing, like Ernst. But she wasn’t a purely establishment candidate: In addition to being backed by Mitt Romney and groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, she also received support of the Senate Conservatives Fund and an endorsement from former reality star Sarah Palin.
In her win, Ernst won counties across the state. The only outliers was Clovis's deep red home turf in Northwest Iowa where he managed to leverage key endorsements from social conservatives like Bob Vander Plaats and Rick Santorum. Surprisingly, Jacobs, who was the frontrunner for much of the race, ended up in third place. This was a major disappointment for a self-funding candidate who built a stronger field program than any of his opponents and bombarded Iowa voters with direct mail and television ads.
With her win, Ernst is set to match up against Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the fall. Braley, a four-term congressman from the industrial city of Waterloo, is favored, but the race is likely to be very competitive in the swing state of Iowa.