Clinton: Ernst dodging press ‘disqualifying’

Scott Wong

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonWasserman Schultz wins primary against Sanders-backed challenger Obama's former doctor: Clinton should have neurological exam Kaine defends Clinton's health amid Trump attacks MORE on Wednesday turned up the heat on Republican hopeful Joni Ernst for skipping meetings with newspaper editorial boards, calling it a “disqualifying” factor in the Iowa Senate race.

“You test your candidates. You force them to be the best they can be — I understand that,” Clinton, the former secretary of State and failed 2008 presidential candidate, told about 400 supporters at a rally at a union hall for Ernst’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce BraleyCriminal sentencing bill tests McConnell-Grassley relationship Trump's VP list shrinks Vernon wins Iowa House Dem primary MORE.

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“They have to be willing to answer the tough questions, which Bruce has been willing to do and his opponent has not,” she continued. “It really seems like it should be disqualifying in Iowa of all states to avoid answering questions.” 

Last week, Ernst, an Iowa state senator, came under fire for nixing a previously scheduled meeting with The Des Moines Register, the state’s largest newspaper, saying she already knew it was endorsing Braley.

She’s also declined to meet with other newspapers in the state, though she has answered questions from reporters on the road.

“It was quite evident where they stood in this race and they were going to endorse my opponent,” Ernst told CNN when asked about the cancelled meeting.

Ernst spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel pushed back on Clinton's line of attack.

"Congressman Braley's surrogates often don't even know his last name, so it's no surprise Hillary Clinton's facts are wrong," Hamel said in a statement. "Joni's priority is to meet with as many undecided voters as she can during her 99 county tour, but she is also meeting with several editorial boards."

The former first lady’s visit came on the same day a Quinnipiac University poll showed Ernst leading Braley by 49 to 45 percent, a 4-point lead outside the margin of error. Braley’s campaign countered by releasing its own internal poll revealing that the race was all tied up at 47 percent. 

After the get-out-the-vote rally, Clinton and Braley were headed to the Quad Cities region for another event with supporters. Her husband, former President Clinton, arrives in Iowa Saturday to headline Braley’s annual blues and barbecue fundraiser.

But Braley tweeted after the rally that he and Clinton were first going to make a stop at the Hamburg Inn, a popular diner in Iowa City about 30 miles away.

This story was updated at 5:46 p.m.