Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, will be giving the Republicans’ formal response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said she “is a perfect choice,” to deliver the rebuttal.
Not only is she the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress, but she also comes from a swing state when it comes to presidential politics.
While some say this is a great opportunity, it’s often a thankless task, as The Washington Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson points out. Generally, the only memorable State of the Union rebuttals are the ones that go terribly wrong.
Such as two years ago, when Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, awkwardly drank some water in the middle of his speech.
Here are a few things to know about Ernst when she steps in front of the camera tonight:
1. She’s an Iraq War veteran
Ernst served in Iraq in 2003 with the National Guard, “running convoys through Kuwait and into southern Iraq,” and in an interview with Mother Jones, said “I do have reason to believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”
2. These ads helped give her national exposure
The campaign ad, where she talked about castrating hogs and “cutting pork,” first gained her some national attention.
Then there was the one where she shot a gun, promising to “unload on Obamacare.”
3. Welcoming gift
Upon her arrival on Capitol Hill, she was given a hog castration device.
Lindsey Graham just gave Joni Ernst hog castration equipment pic.twitter.com/BTc8V3Kxuf— Benny (@bennyjohnson) January 6, 2015
4. “Iowa’s Sarah Palin”
That’s the nickname given to her by Democratic opponents, and during the campaign was called an “onion of crazy” by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“She’s like an onion of crazy; the more you peel back the layers, the more disturbing it is,” Schultz said at the Iowa State Fair.
Ernst — and her husband — are no strangers to controversial remarks. For example:
- Made comments about a decades-old United Nations treaty, where Ernst said she could see it resulting in “moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers, and then telling them that you don’t have property rights anymore.” She later backed off those statements.
- At a forum in 2013, Ernst said that Congress shouldn’t pass any laws “that the states would consider nullifying.” However, states don’t have the power to nullify federal laws or Supreme Court decisions.
- During the campaign, Ernst’s husband, Gail, posted a picture to Facebook of Hillary Clinton, saying “Truly more of a hag now than when she was 1st Lady!” Ernst’s campaign quickly went into damage control.
5. On federal agencies and spending
Ernst has proposed eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Education in an effort to reduce federal spending. She also supports a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.