Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in Iowa's national guard and first-term state lawmaker, has received encouragement from Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) and Lieutenant Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) to run for the seat.
She joins an already-crowded field of fairly unknown GOP candidates, after all of the state's well-known Republicans took a pass on the race. Declared candidates include David Young (R), who until recently was Sen. Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) chief of staff, as well as former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker (R) and conservative radio host Sam Clovis (R). Businessman Mark Jacobs (R) is also looking at a run.
A survey released Wednesday by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows Braley leading his GOP opponents by 9-3 points, though much of that lead may be due to their relative anonymity in the state.