It’s Joni Ernst, whom you’ll remember from her last ad vowing to make Beltway types squeal just like the hogs she castrated as a kid. That spot put her on the map nationally. A few weeks later she was ahead in the GOP primary despite being outspent by her nearest rival, and a few weeks after that she landed Sarah Palin’s endorsement (“I haven’t been this excited about a candidate in quite a while”). Here she is in full Mama Grizzly mode, which has The Wire claiming that “Senate Candidate Joni Ernst’s Sarah Palin Schtick is Now Beyond Parody.” But she’s winking at the schtick, no? Both this spot and the castration ad seem firmly tongue-in-cheek to me; compare and contrast Joe Manchin’s famous commercial from the 2010 campaign, when he put a bullet in the cap-and-trade bill, with this one of Ernst taking target practice. The vibe in Manchin’s ad was somber to the point of being almost grim, all “I mean business.” The vibe in this one, thanks to the over-the-top music and Ernst’s cheeriness, is sunny while signaling that she’s a woman of the people. That’s no accident, either: If she makes it through the primary, the Democrat who’s waiting for her in the general is Bruce “Do we really want farmers in Congress?” Braley.
If Ernst pulls the upset, she’ll be the first woman ever elected to Congress — either chamber — from Iowa. Gonna be some highly nuanced “war on women” messaging from Democrats there this fall. Exit question: What’s next ad-wise for Ernst? After castration and gunshots, how does she up the ante yet again? I’m imagining her in that Sigourney Weaver rig from the end of “Aliens,” battling a monster while the narrator intones metaphorically about spending, but alas, she probably doesn’t have the budget for that.