Wednesday, February 14, 2018

How to deal with Ernst?

A tweetstorm turned into a blogpost:

In order to come up with an effective attack on Joni Ernst, Democrats have to first understand her appeal - and they seem incapable of that.

Urban Democratic activists instinctively want to attack the Ernst persona - and that kind of attack plays right into her hands. Her persona is EXACTLY WHY SHE WON. What exactly is WRONG with being a Harley-riding Guard-serving farm gal in Iowa, anyway?

Most Democratic activists still think of Ernst as a fluke and a joke who was only elected because 2014 was a bad year and because Bruce Braley was a spectacularly bad candidate. Both those things are true but they don't explain the depth of the loss.

Periodic reminder that Ernst's pig castrating ad debuted the same day as Braley's "Grassley a farmer from Iowa not a lawyer" video leaked. That timing was not an accident. And that day was the day I knew Ernst would be the next Senator.

Here in the People's Republic of Johnson County in 2014 I had more random discussions initiated by non "political" people about Ernst than any other pre-Trump candidate.

And they can all basically be summed up as: that crazy pig lady can't possibly WIN, can she? And in private I answered yes. Yes she can. Wish I had written it but I was trying to be a Team Player.

It was a classic case of the Democrats' "Everybody I Know" problem: no one I know is voting for her, so she can't possibly WIN...

Ernst's bread bag schtick actively turned off voters in Johnson County and other scattered lefty enclaves. But what my people couldn't and still can't understand is: It plays very, very well in about 95 counties.

The Ernst persona is a cultural signifier that repels urban and activist liberals but connects with more or less everyone else in Iowa.

That forces an anti-Ernst effort to be about record and policy - and detailed wonky campaigns about record and policy tend to work best with the kind of urban liberals who are already turned off by Ernst.

In contrast, the attack on Grassley was easy: Too Old. Which didn't work (and may not have worked even with a younger Democratic nominee) but at least it was an actual vulnerability. Attacking Ernst on persona is attacking her strength.

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