Republican Joni Ernst, locked in a tight U.S. Senate race in Iowa, said she’s “greatly offended” by recent remarks about her looks from the man she’s trying to replace, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
“In this Senate race, I’ve been watching some of these ads,” Mr. Harkin said at a recent Democratic barbecue, according to video posted late Sunday by Buzzfeed. “And there’s sort of this sense that, ‘Well, I hear so much about Joni Ernst. She is really attractive, and she sounds nice.’ “
“Well I got to thinking about that,” Mr. Harkin continued. “I don’t care if she’s as good looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers, but if she votes like Michele Bachmann, she’s wrong for the state of Iowa.”
Ms. Ernst said Monday that she was “very offended” that Mr. Harkin would say that.
“I think it’s unfortunate that he and many [in] their party believe that you can’t be a real woman if you’re conservative and you’re female,” she said on “Fox and Friends.” “Again, I am greatly offended about that.”
Republicans are trying to push back this election cycle on Democratic charges of a GOP “war on women” over issues largely related to abortion and women’s health. Democrats in Colorado, for example, have relentlessly attacked GOP Rep. Cory Gardner for his views on contraception and women’s issues in his race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.
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“I believe if my name had been John Ernst attached to my resume, Senator Harkin would not have said those things,” said Ms. Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard who served in Iraq.
“First, I am a woman, and second, I have been to war — I am a combat veteran,” she said. “Anytime Democrats are using the word ‘war,’ they need to do it to honor our servicemen and women.”
Ms. Ernst has about a 2-point lead over Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in Real Clear Politics’ latest average of recent public polling on the Iowa race.
She did say on Twitter Monday that she’s “excited to see” Miss Swift next October in Des Moines — one stop on the singer’s newly-announced “1989 World Tour.”
In a statement issued Monday, Mr. Harkin said he regrets the remarks.
“I shouldn’t have said those things, I know that. I regret anytime someone feels offended by what I have said,” he said. “But I am only human and I can make mistakes sometimes in how I say something. In fact, I have complimented her on running a very good campaign.”