Newspaper article Roll Call

Joni Ernst Money Chase Starts Now (Updated)

Newspaper article Roll Call

Joni Ernst Money Chase Starts Now (Updated)

Article excerpt

Updated 10:10 p.m. | State Sen. Joni Ernst posted a resounding victory Tuesday with 56 percent of the Republican primary vote, handily winning the GOP nod for Senate in Iowa.

Now Ernst must run up a different number: Her bottom line.

After a grueling and costly primary, Ernst -- who already struggled with campaign fundraising -- starts a general election campaign against a cash-flush Democratic nominee, Rep. Bruce Braley. Ernst's primary bid was heavily boosted by third-party groups -- support Republicans hope will resume as quickly as possible.

For example, less than 24 hours after the Republican's win, Braley debuted a statewide television ad attacking her for being all talk about cutting spending without having the legislative record to back it up.

The buy has no end date, and the sum of money behind it is "significant," said the Braley campaign.

"Ernst is vulnerable now because she doesn't have an ability to respond to an attack in kind," said Craig Robinson, former Iowa GOP political director and the editor-in-chief of The Iowa Republican.

Democrats have used this tactic before with success. In a 2012 Senate race in Wisconsin, former Gov. Tommy Thompson emerged from a competitive three-way primary to a barrage of ads from Democrats. It worked; Thompson lost by more than 5 points. In 2010, Democrats similarly pummeled another newly-minted, cash-poor GOP nominee, Sharron Angle, in Nevada, paving the way for a vulnerable Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to win re-election.

Braley has a huge monetary advantage over Ernst, although it's unclear how much.

But according to pre-primary reports that included fundraising up to May 14, Ernst reported $350,000 in the bank. Braley reported $2.3 million cash on hand at the same time.

Braley ran uncontested in his primary, so he did not need to spend any of that to overcome a primary opponent. What's more, he has a track record as a strong fundraiser.

Ernst, on the other hand, posted tepid fundraising during the primary, and outside groups did much of the heavy lifting to keep her on the air. In the final weeks of her campaign, Marco Rubio's Reclaim America PAC spent $150,000 on television ads touting Ernst, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $500,000, and Senate Conservatives Action spent $100,000. Now she has about $125,000 in the bank, an Ernst campaign senior advisor told CQ Roll Call. The source said money has been coming in at a faster clip than during the primary, but acknowledged Braley currently has a financial advantage.

Republicans have already pleaded for third-party spending for Ernst to continue after the primary.

"The outside groups that were so influential in the final stretch of the primary need to remain committed to Iowa," said former Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn. "This is a winnable seat, and while Ernst is replenishing her campaign coffers, those groups can both help introduce Joni to the general election electorate and further define Braley and expose his record as out-of-touch with Iowans. …

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