Sen. Joni Ernst blames her campaign struggles on 'changing demographics'


Sen. Joni Ernst blames her vulnerability on the fact that Iowa has gone from 91.3% white to 90.7% white over the last eight years.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) blamed demographic changes when she admitted that her reelection campaign is struggling.

During a radio interview with AMQC, Ernst was asked about a comment she made behind closed doors, in which she admitted she was one of the most vulnerable senators in the country.

"Can you talk about the race and how much more money the Democrats are seeming to raise than your campaign is raising?" Ernst was asked before launching into a disjointed response.

"Yep, you bet. And no, that's actually, if you go back, I think Charlie Cook is the one that reported that," Ernst said, seeming to refer to the influential Cook Political Report. "You know one of his, one of his, you know, studies. So, there are a lot of vulnerable folks out there."

Then Ernst spoke about her situation, specifically.

"And yes, just with changing, shifting demographics in Iowa," she said. "Um, you know, that is true. I'll say that, that is true."

Ernst's response was first reported by Iowa Starting Line.

Looking at the data, Iowa's demographics have been remarkably consistent over the past decade. As it was in 2010, the state remains overwhelmingly white.

In 2010, Iowa was 91.3% white. In July 2018, the "changing, shifting demographics" moved the state to 90.7% white. In the same time period, Hispanic residents increased from 5% to just 6.2%, and African Americans increased from 2.9% to only 4%. There have been no significant changes to gender or age of Iowans, either.

Despite data showing little demographic change in her home state, Ernst made the decision to highlight demographics when asked about her struggling campaign. The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that white nationalists often "advocate for policies to reverse changing demographics and the loss of an absolute, white majority." Donald Trump's use of racist rhetoric has made him popular among white supremacists.

Ernst has been a supporter of Trump's harsh immigration rhetoric and policies primarily targeting immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Ernst was a vocal supporter of Trump sending American troops to the southern border prior to the 2018 midterm election. In 2019, she downplayed the severity of the situation faced by immigrants in detention facilities, comparing the overcrowded conditions to a crowded Thanksgiving dinner.

Whatever the reason, Ernst is indeed struggling in her reelection campaign.

In the most recent fundraising period, Democrat Theresa Greenfield raised more than $1.1 million while Ernst was unable to raise even $1 million. A recent poll from Morning Consult saw Ernst's net approval rating drop nine points from previous polls, "the biggest decline in net approval for any senator." The poll showed Ernst's approval level dropping across the board, from Republicans (13 points), to Democrats (9 points), to independents (7 points).

Republicans hold a slim 53-47 majority in the Senate. In addition to Ernst, Democrats hoping to regain the majority are eyeing vulnerable Republicans including Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona, Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado, Sen. Susan Collins in Maine, and Sen. Thom Tillis in North Carolina.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.