In the middle of an unexpectedly close re-election campaign, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst could have took advantage of a strong night a virtual debate on Thursday against the Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. Instead her botched a question her opponent said Iowa Senator should know the answer to.
It started when Greenfield correctly answered a question about the break-even price of corn About $ 3.68 a bushel, she said, and at that price some farmers could cover their production costs. Then the moderator Ernst asked a similar question about the break-even price of soybeans. Ernst responded with $ 5.50, well below the real price of $ 10.05. She then complained to the moderator that Greenfield had not been asked the same question.
Greenfield immediately seized the moment and tweeted that Ernst "should know the price of soybeans".
The clip was quickly blown up on social media despite most of the politics talking about the dueling town halls of the presidential candidates.
The question may seem awkward to some, but as NBC News Political Correspondent Sahil Kapur noted, Iowa voters have historically cared about their understanding of local farming issues. And six years after beating eight points to secure her first term in the US Senate, Ernst – once considered a rising star in the Republican Party – needs these voters.
The corn / soybean thing was a gotcha, but it is a reminder that Joni Ernst is in part a senator because her last opponent sounded deaf to the farmers in Iowa. pic.twitter.com/A0wVM6xc4P
– Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) October 16, 2020
Both Ernst and Greenfield grew up on farms. Ernst spent 22 years in the Iowa Army National Guard, serving in the Iowa State Senate from 2011 to 2014 before being elected to the U.S. Senate, replacing retired Senator Tom Harkin.
Greenfield, meanwhile, has never held an elected office. After college, she worked as a city planner and real estate developer in Iowa. But she voted neck to neck with the reigning Ernst, sometimes even a few points ahead.
Iowa led the way in the recent presidential election. Barack Obama won Hawkeye State in 2008 with almost 10 percentage points and in 2012 with around 6 points. But Donald Trump won in 2016 by over 9 percentage points.
However, Democrats seem to have some momentum there now. Before the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans held three of the four seats in the US House of Representatives in Iowa, but two of them changed hands in the last cycle. Abby Finkenauer flipped over the first district, which covers the northeastern part of the state and includes Cedar Rapids, and Cindy Axne did the same in the third district, which covers the southwestern part of the state and the capital, Des Moines.
As Vox's Dylan Scott explained, Iowa, which is 91 percent white, seemed to be steadily moving to the right after the Republicans' success in 2014 and 2016. But the urban and suburban parts of Iowa are growing, which could cause problems for both Ernst and Ernst, and Trump. And Thursday didn't help. As a Democratic strategist had previously said to Scott:
"The thing that people like about Joni Ernst was real and relatable," said the democratic strategist. “Greenfield has that in its spade. … Voters want to vote for someone they believe understands the life they lead. "
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