RED OAK, IA - NOVEMBER 04: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst speaks to members of the news media after casting her ballot on election day outside her hometown fire department November 4, 2014 in Red Oak, Iowa. According to the polls, Ernst is in a neck-and-neck race with her opponent, Democratic candidate Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), and the election in Iowa could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Who is Joni Ernst?
01:41 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

It’s probably no surprise that GOP leaders picked freshman Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst to represent their party following the President’s State of the Union address on Tuesday. After all, her castrating hogs campaign ad made her the standout star in the last election.

But her bio is politically irresistible even beyond that.

Joni Ernst to brave State of the Union rebuttal

She’s an Iraq war combat vet, and the first woman elected to Congress from Iowa.

She was a tea party favorite for her positions on everything from abortion to the federal minimum wage. On the latter, Ernst told us on the campaign trail back in August she doesn’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all approach.”

“I believe it has to be done by the state,” she had said.

But she snatched the Senate seat left open by retiring liberal icon Tom Harkin by moderating her image in the general election, winning handily in the purple state of Iowa.

During her campaign against Democrat Bruce Braley, I asked her if she would be a senator in the mold of conservative poster boy Ted Cruz. She recoiled, insisting “Oh no, I’m a senator in the mold of Joni Ernst. Just an independent leader who will represent Iowa.”

And she has another trait that drives Democrats crazy: She seems nice. Not New Jersey nice or California nice, but Iowa nice, which anyone who has ever stepped foot in Iowa knows is really, really nice.

Except, that is, if you’re a hog.

She even used her victory night speech last fall to reinforce her hog castrating fame.

“We are heading to Washington! And we are going to make ‘em squeal!”

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