Ernst challenges Greenfield to six debates in Iowa Senate race

Ernst challenges Greenfield to six debates in Iowa Senate race
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOn The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami Tillis appears to reinforce question about COVID-19 death toll The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection MORE (R-Iowa) has challenged her Democratic opponent Theresa Greenfield to six debates ahead of November's general election, the latest sign of what is expected to be a tight race in the Hawkeye State. 

"I haven’t heard Theresa Greenfield say one thing that Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Cruz blocks amended resolution honoring Ginsburg over language about her dying wish MORE hasn’t told her to say," Ernst said in a video released by her campaign on Monday. "And, that’s not what Iowans expect in a leader. So I’m challenging Ms. Greenfield to six debates." 

Ernst proposed splitting up the debates by holding two in August, two in September and two in October. 

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"Let’s let Iowans hear what we have to say," Ernst said. 

Greenfield's campaign responded to Ernst on Monday, saying the Democratic candidate has agreed to face Ernst on the debate stage.

“After a new poll showing her trailing, Senator Ernst continues to follow Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic senator to party: 'A little message discipline wouldn't kill us' House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Republican lawyers brush off Trump's election comments MORE’s desperate playbook for other failing Senators around the country,” Greenfield's communications director Sam Newton said in a statement. “Of course, Theresa looks forward to debates this fall — just like how she participated in three televised debates and six public forums in the primary."

The development comes as Ernst faces a difficult reelection fight. A Des Moines Register-Mediacom Iowa survey showed the incumbent senator trailing Greenfield by 3 points, with 46 percent of likely voters saying they would back Greenfield, while 43 percent said they would support Ernst.

Ernst won the seat held previously by Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinThe Memo: Trump attacks on Harris risk backfiring Ernst challenges Greenfield to six debates in Iowa Senate race Biden unveils disability rights plan: 'Your voices must be heard' MORE (D) by just over 8 points in 2014. President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE won the state by more than 9 points in 2016.

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The Cook Political Report rates the race as "lean Republican," but other polls have shown a tighter race. A survey from the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling showed Ernst leading Greenfield by just 1 point.

Democrats see the state as a key target they can flip while they try to take back the majority in the upper chamber.

Greenfield outraised Ernst in the first half of the second quarter of 2020, bringing in about $1.5 million, while Ernst raised $1.2 million. However, the senator leads with cash on hand, with about $7 million in the bank. Greenfield has $4.7 million in the bank.

Updated at 10:45 a.m.