Joni Ernst, Theresa Greenfield battle for seat

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Democratic senate candidate Theresa Greenfield (L) and Senator Joni Ernst, R-IA (R).

Caroline Brehman | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Republican Joni Ernst minced no words in her first televised ad of her successful Senate bid in 2014.

“I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork,” the then-state senator says in the ad before the camera cuts to footage of pigs. “Washington’s full of big spenders. Let’s make ’em squeal.”

When Iowa voters cast their ballots in 2020, they’ll decide whether Ernst has lived up to that promise during her six years in Washington.

Ernst has become a reliable Republican vote in the Senate, voting against her party only 3.4% of the time in the current legislative session, according to data compiled by ProPublica. The average Senate Republican voted against the party 4.3% of the time in the current Congress, according to ProPublica. 

She’s also an ally of President Donald Trump, who faces a challenge from Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden. With political observers predicting a close presidential race in Iowa, her fate may also be tied to that of the president’s.

National Democratic groups have zeroed in on the race as an opportunity to win back the majority in the Senate, with both the Cook Political Report and FiveThirtyEight rating Iowa’s Senate race as a toss-up. Cook rates the presidential race as a toss-up for Iowa as well, and FiveThirtyEight says Trump is slightly favored to win there. The GOP holds a 53-47 edge in the Senate.

Ernst, the first woman from Iowa to hold federal elected office, now faces Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield, a real estate executive who has not previously held political office. Greenfield ran for Congress in 2018, but