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July 29, 2014 11:03 AM Is Ernst a Potential Gaffe Machine?

By Ed Kilgore

National Republicans are real psyched about the possibility of picking up Tom Harkin’s Senate seat, and are generally pleased with their nominee, Joni Ernst, who managed to attract both Establishment and Tea Party support in her primary and blew away heavily self-funded early front-runner Mark Jacobs and conservative activist Sam Clovis with a majority of the vote. But while Ernst scratches a lot of itches (a woman running for Senate in a state that has never elected anything but men to Congress; an active National Guard soldier; and subject of the best right-wing political ad of the cycle so far), you get the feeling she’s a potential gaffe machine. To paraphrase George Harrison: “in her eyes there’s something lacking.”

So it wasn’t that surprising when the Daily Beast’s Ben Jacobs came up with a 2013 video of Ernst at a Christian Right event saying some odd stuff:

Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, appears to believe states can nullify federal laws. In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a forum held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws “that the states would consider nullifying.”
“You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right…we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators—as senators or congressman—that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.”

All righty, then! That clears it all up for me!

Seriously, Ernst has a knack for the occasional statement that makes you wonder if she has any idea what she’s talking about,and/or would say anything to pander to the extremists of her party. It’s the sort of quality that ought to keep Republicans a bit nervous between now and November.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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