Quinnipiac said the race was a dead heat. The Des Moines Register's Iowa Poll gave Joni Ernst a seven point lead.
She won by eight.
I don't think anybody who supported Ernst really expected to lose. Joni had led from early on in the polls, and momentum remained on our side. What little nervousness we had came from the volatility of the polls as regards her margin.
For a change I spent the day telephoning voters and reminding them to vote rather than poll watching. Gov. Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds, who were re-elected by an even bigger margin, stopped by to thank us. So did Adam Gregg, the sacrificial lamb the GOP had fielded against Iowa institution and Lutheran Attorney General Tom Miller.
Someone commented that Gregg resembled Clark Kent. He does. Unfortunately, he was unable to leap tall poll deficits in a single bound.
At length congressional candidate David Young stopped by. Young has been savaged throughout the campaign by attack ads claiming that he's a one-man conspiracy to abolish Medicare and Social Security. Scaring old people is a decades old Democratic tactic, of course. But the onslaught against Young was especially fierce.
I shook his hand after watching him interact with several elderly volunteers. "Well," I told him, "I can see that you don't eat old people after all."
"No," he said with a shocked look on his face. "I don'!"
Either he's sorely lacking a sense of humor, or has a better one than I do. Or maybe it's just that he's gotten so used to denying ridiculous charges that it's hard to break the habit.
Most of the people in the office were congressional staffers from various other states. We had a very nice fellow there from Dallas, and a staffer from Ohio Sen. Portman's office. More of the people I spent Election Day with lived in D.C. than in Iowa.
We headed over to the West Des Moines Marriott a little after eight. It was certainly a more enjoyable party than the one two years ago. As race after race went our way, everybody was in a pretty mellow mood. The local NBC affiliate called the Senate race for Joni and the Third District Congressional race for Dave Young before ten o'clock. Fox made it official half an hour or so later, putting the Republicans over the top and giving them the majority in the Senate.
First Joni's family and then Joni herself came out just as Wisconsin Gov. Walker was giving his victory statement. Fox cut to Joni. She was impressive even though she wasn't at her best; she'd been up for 24 hours straight in a last-ditch push. But she was the strong, forceful, funny, and eloquent woman we'd all gotten to admire in the past few months. We are all proud of her.
I watched Bruce Braley's concession speech in the lobby of the hotel. He was introduced by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, an affable old radical whose description of Braley's campaign as "honorable" stuck in my craw a bit, given the character assassination, deceit, distortion, and outright lies that had formed most of it. But in fairness, to a person as extreme as Tom Harkin it all probably seemed reasonable.
And so it is that Iowa- a blue state in recent years- now has a Republican governor and two Republican U.S. senators. The lady who was a company commander in Desert Storm has led us to victory, ending her speech with a declaration from the seminal ad which appears above: a promise to "make 'em squeal."
Other than a few local races and Ed Gillespie's apparent loss in Virginia, it was a good night. Here's hoping we have another in two years.