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Ernst Struggles in Iowa as Republicans Battle to Hold Senate Amid Trump’s Woes

  • October 17, 2020

Ms. Ernst has scrambled to respond. When Mr. Schumer forced a recent vote to bar the Trump administration from arguing to overturn the health care law, Ms. Ernst broke with her party to vote with the Democrats. And she apologized repeatedly for her comment questioning the coronavirus death toll.

“I am so sorry that my words may have offended you,” Ms. Ernst said during a recent debate, addressing health care workers. “You are tremendous workers. You are essential workers.”

In an attempt to salvage the seat, Republicans’ Senate campaign arm has begun running its own attack ads against Ms. Greenfield’s business record, accusing her of “shoddy workmanship” and “breach of contract” — charges the real estate developer disputes.

Ms. Ernst has also emphasized Ms. Greenfield’s failed foray into politics in 2018, when she briefly ran for Congress but ended her bid after her former campaign manager admitted to forging signatures on petition paperwork.

Some Iowans said they were turned off by the flood of negative ads against Ms. Ernst.

“The things that are being advertised against her, it makes me want to slap them,” said Denny Gergen, 69, a grain and soybean farmer from northwest Iowa and one of the bikers who turned out to support Ms. Ernst. “Yeah, I know, hey, it’s politics but this is just getting dirty.”

Ms. Ernst saw hope in Mr. Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, arguing that the confirmation fight would energize conservatives and drive them to the polls to support her. She returned to Washington from the campaign trail to participate in the hearings, where she emphasized Judge Barrett’s status as a powerful conservative woman.

But Ms. Ernst also tried to strike a moderate tone when discussing the consequences of elevating Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, pointing out that she had once upheld a protest buffer zone around abortion clinics.

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