“She’s the full-spectrum conservative that has eluded us in a lot of races and her genuineness and Iowan hospitality made her a great candidate and make her a great senator. I don’t think anyone is surprised that leadership thought she’d be a great voice for Republicans in countering the president’s state of the union address,” said Tim Albrecht, an Iowa-based strategist close to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) who did some work on Ernst’s campaign. 

“She’s not seeking this national profile. The national profile is seeking her because she’s so refreshing,” he added. 
Strategists point out that Ernst enjoyed quiet backing from Branstad that helped her in the primary and that Braley was a fatally flawed candidate in a terrible year for Democrats. But even her biggest detractors admit she ran a terrific race and tip their hats to her personal charm. 

“She’s a great human being, she’s a really good person and I really admire her because she’s such a quality individual,” said Sam Clovis, an influential Iowa conservative and one of the men Ernst defeated in the primary. “I think it’s great they’ve picked her [for the GOP response]… She’s a rising star, she’s got all the things you want on television and she’ll do a good job.”