Joni Ernst defends skipping Des Moines Register meeting

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Story highlights

  • Joni Ernst canceled a preplanned meeting with the Des Moines Register last week
  • Ernst said 'it was quite evident' the paper would back her opponent, which they did
  • The newspaper said Ernst's cancellation was not the sole factor behind the endorsement
Republican Joni Ernst defended Tuesday her decision to abruptly cancel a meeting with the Des Moines Register Editorial Board last week, telling CNN "it didn't make sense" because she knew they would back her Democratic opponent.
"It was quite evident where they stood in this race and they were going to endorse my opponent," Ernst said in an interview at a campaign stop in Oskaloosa.
The Des Moines Register endorsement is coveted in Iowa politics, and sitting down with editorial boards to answer questions is a long-held tradition not only in Iowa but nationwide.
Ernst aides point to several editorials in the days leading up to the scheduled meeting as proof she wouldn't get a fair shake from the newspaper.
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A Des Moines Register editorial last week called Ernst "naive" for insisting that a constitutional amendment on so-called personhood that she co-sponsored in the state Senate is "simply a statement that I support life."
But the same editorial also criticized her Democratic opponent, Bruce Braley.
The race for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin is one of the most competitive contests this year, with recent polls showing Ernst with a slight lead or a statistical tie between the two. The seat would be a crucial pickup for Republicans on their quest to retake the upper chamber.
After Ernst canceled her meeting with the Des Moines Register, its publisher issued a statement expressing his disappointment, but insisting that "snubbing us or appearing before us won't be the final call in our endorsement."
Despite insisting the cancellation was not about avoiding tough questions, the reality is any editorial board is a tough room.
Alison Lundergan Grimes got tripped up earlier this month at an editorial board meeting with the Courier Journal when she refused to say if she voted for President Barack Obama.
Not taking such a risk so close the election comports with the Ernst campaign strategy right now, which is to exude confidence, likability and keep the focus on fixing a broken Washington.
The question is whether Ernst defying tradition in a state that cherishes its traditions will hurt her with voters who are on the fence, especially if they think she was in fact avoiding tough questions.
Ernst insists the best thing for her now is to follow the ultimate Iowa tradition, which is to be out and meeting voters.
"I really need to be on the trail and visiting with Iowans and making sure they have the opportunity to interact with me and ask me questions. that's the important thing at this point in time," Ernst told CNN.