RPII: Ernst, Grassley and Kaufmann electrify Black Hawk County GOP crowd
Lt. Col. and State Sen. Joni Ernst with Traci Thede Trunck at the Black Hawk County GOP Lincoln Dinner Saturday at the Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo. This is a feature of Republican Party of Iowa Intel. Sign up for regular updates by subscribing here.
WATERLOO, Iowa—State Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, kicked off her 99-county tour of Iowa Saturday night at Waterloo’s iconic Electric Park Ballroom with a boost from her soon-to-be colleague, Sen. Chuck Grassley.
The Black Hawk County GOP‘s annual Lincoln Dinner drew more than 200 people to hear Ernst, Grassley, local candidates and Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann talk about their policy visions for how to improve state government in Des Moines and the federal government in D.C.—and how to turn out Republican voters to make it happen. Republicans—including 1st District nominee Rod Blum, Sam Clovis, the GOP’s state treasurer candidate and Paul Pate, who is vying for Secretary of State—called on the crowd to “do one more thing” to ensure a GOP victory in November.
Grassley, who has been campaigning hard for Republicans, said that Washington, D.C. is dysfunctional because of the obstructionism of Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid, who has refused to consider more than 300 bills passed by the U.S. House and limited debate on the few bills he allows to come up for a vote.
“When Joni Ernst is in the U.S. Senate, Senator Reid will no longer be running the United States Senate,” Grassley said, emphasizing that Ernst’s election could provide the tipping point for a GOP majority in the upper chamber. “If you get rid of Reid, the Senate’s going be productive.”
This race also comes down to leadership and integrity, Grassley said. “She’ll be the first combat female veteran in the United States Senate. She’s demonstrated her political leadership in the State Senate.” And in perhaps the biggest laugh-line of the night, Grassley joked about the ad that catapulted Ernst onto the national scene.
“I’ll tell ya, apologetically, I’ve never been man enough to castrate hogs… so you know you’re gonna have one tough hombre in the U.S. Senate,” he said to roars of laughter from the crowd.
“Our president by his ambivalence has emboldened our enemies,” Grassley said, citing the Islamic State or ISIS and Russia. “I want to preserve America, not transform America. The best days are ahead—when we get rid of a president that can be authoritarian.”
“Eight-year congressman Bruce Braley has found himself in a very difficult position,” Ernst said. “He is tied with a little known southwest Iowa farm girl, and he did not anticipate that!”
Ernst said that Braley has simply served as a loyal lieutenant to President Obama and Democrat House Leader Nancy Pelosi, and he only passed one bill through Congress.
“Can anybody give me a success that [he] has had? [Braley] is running one of the most negative campaigns in Iowa history,” she said, explaining that he’s tearing her down because he can’t run on his left-wing record. “Obamacare is not the magic bullet that they thought it would be, and our debt has become something that we have a moral obligation to take care of so we can protect our future generations.”
Ernst said that she spent Friday with her family, friends and father, who turned 77, huddled around a bonfire.
A neighbor told her, “Joni, just don’t change when you go to Washington. Don’t change.”
“I think that’s so important,” Ernst said. “I love Iowans, I love my community. I am going there to work for Iowans.
Ernst also brought up Braley’s hypocrisy on agricultural issues.
“The entire Iowa delegation supported [a bill to reign in EPA regulation that would impact Iowa farms] except for Bruce Braley,” she said. “On Tuesday he voted against that bill because he’s backed by California environmental extremists who support the EPA to take over. He stood up for California environmentalists, but he refused to stand up for Iowa farmers.”
“Iowans cannot trust Bruce Braley,” Ernst said. “He will do one thing here in Iowa… and he’ll do another thing out in Washington, D.C.”
Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann mentioned the handful of protesters outside the event. The few sign-wavers were paid rabble-rousers of billionaire hedge fund financier Tom Steyer, an anti-ethanol, anti-Keystone pipeline San Fransico billionaire who has funded several million dollars of attack ads against Ernst.
“Tom Steyer, we don’t need you to tell us what’s best for farmers, and what’s best for Iowa, and what’s best in terms of who represents us. We’ll take care of that ourselves,” Kaufmann said. “Thanks, but no thanks. But Bruce Braley’s got has his hand out. And his hand out is for more dollars so that he can misconstrue, he can twist, he can spin and he can try to get us to forget a few things.”
Kaufmann, a seventh-generation livestock farmer from Wilton, referenced Braley’s infamous pledge in front of Texas trial lawyers promising them that he’d be their voice in Washington, D.C. while mocking Grassley as “just a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.”
“Well, we know that Chuck Grassley is ‘just a farmer,'” Kaufmann said. “You know what? Back in Cedar County where I come from, that’s one of the highest compliments you can give somebody. I’m glad you’re just a farmer, Senator Grassley. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud of you.”
Kaufmann also citied a congressional hearing where Braley berated a female witness for not having an advanced degree.
“Well, Bruce Braley, I’ve got one of them there Ph.Ds., and when I came to a conclusion, I came to the conclusion that you’re not the best choice for this state!” Kaufmann said. “That’s what my Ph.D tells me!“
Kaufmann has visited Black Hawk county four times during his 11 weeks as party chair, and he is consistently impressed with the enthusiasm of grassroots activists.
“I know tonight what I’m doing is preaching to the choir,” he’s said. “I’m preaching to the choir because we need you to sing like only you can sing.”
“Here’s the one thing you can do right away: and that is you can vote early. I know you’re hearing this again and again and again, but that is the most important thing you can do, folks. And I know, I know you love to show up on Election Day. My 90-year-old World War II [veteran] father told my son the other day, ‘I just don’t know about this vote early, but everybody’s telling me I should do it.’ So, for the first time, this 90-year-old man is going to go out, and he’s going to vote early, and he’s going to vote for Joni Ernst and Terry Branstad and that ticket all the way down.”
Kaufmann noted that voting early allows candidates and the state party to save money on voter canvassing and direct mail. He acknowledged that Republicans trail Democrats in absentee ballot requests, but he said that resources are on the way to narrow the margin dramatically.
“We’re gonna put over $1 million into the get-out-the-vote early program,” Kaufmann said. “That’s boots on the ground, that’s banking votes right in the ol’ hopper and that’s putting folks over the edge.”
Kaufmann suggested that the U.S. Senate race is going to come down to a simple issue: trust.
“You’re putting your faith in someone that when they come home from [Washington, D.C.], they’re gonna give you a straight answer,” said Kaufmann, who served with Ernst in the Iowa legislature. “So, all I would do is just appeal to your common sense. Are you going to put your trust into a lady that is a soldier, commanded one of the largest battalions in the state, is a mom, a lady that has proven herself in the state senate? I’ve been behind those closed doors with Joni Ernst… and it would make you proud.”
“Are you going to believe an Iowa farm girl or are you going to believe a trial lawyer that has already proven—has already told you what he’s thinking about when he gets into Texas?” Kaufmann said. “Folks, you don’t even have to listen to the commercials from here on out. Bruce Braley has told you what he’s thinking of, and he looks with disdain and with arrogance at the very agricultural economy that is the heart and soul of this state. Folks, Joni Ernst is not going to forget where she came from, but I will assure you that Bruce Braley has forgotten where he came from before he even left.”
“So, tonight this is about a moment in time,” he said. “We’ve got a chance to make history. We’ve got a chance to avoid a colossal mistake by sending a trial lawyer who’s already proven what he does behind closed doors.”
Kaufmann ended with an appeal for Republicans to vote early and volunteer for the cause during the last 40-some days until Election Day.
“You are the strength of the Republican Party,” he said. “This party doesn’t flow from the top down, this party flows from the bottom up, and the grassroots are telling me one thing: and that is do everything you can, move every stone you can, spend every dime you have to make sure that we don’t make a colossal mistake and we send one of our own to the United States Senate—and one of our own is an Iowa farm girl with the values of Iowans, with the work ethic of Iowans, with the heart of Iowans,” he said. “Folks, I’m preachin’ to you, and please just sing for 44 days. We’re going to make history, and we’ve got something you can tell your grandkids about. Go get ‘em!”