US midterm elections: Victory for Republican candidate Joni Ernst in Iowa follows Taylor Swift row

Ms Ernst, 44, became the first woman ever elected in a statewide race in Iowa

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The Independent US

She may be the biggest music star in the world, but it was still surprising for Taylor Swift to come up on the campaign trail.

Last week, retiring Iowa Senator Tom Harkin told a gathering of fellow Democrats that the Republican candidate for his seat, Joni Ernst, did not deserve to be elected simply because she was “really attractive and she sounds nice.” Mr Harkin went on, “I don't care if she’s as good-looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers... she’s wrong for the state of Iowa.”

His warnings were to no avail, as last night Ms Ernst, who is 44, became the first woman ever elected in a statewide race in Iowa, defeating Mr Harkin’s preferred candidate, Democrat Bruce Baley. Indeed, the contest was close enough that Mr Harkin might wonder whether his comments affected the outcome. On Monday he apologised, saying the remarks were a mistake. “I shouldn’t have said those things,” he said. “I regret anytime someone feels offended by what I have said.”

Ms Ernst, for her part, said that she had indeed been offended, suggesting Mr Harkin would never have said such things if she were a man. “I was very offended that Senator Harkin would say that. I think it’s unfortunate that he and many of their party believe you can’t be a real woman if you're conservative and you’re female,” Ms Ernst told Fox News.

 

A Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, Ms Ernst served in the Iraq War and will be the first female combat veteran ever to sit in the US Senate. Conservative even by GOP standards, she rose to prominence during the Republican primary race earlier this year, in which she was lagging behind before she released a campaign ad recalling that she “grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm”, and promising to put that expertise to use to cut spending and “make ‘em squeal” in Washington.

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