Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst Says She's No Kingmaker, But Keeps VP Door Open

She laughed when asked about being a VP candidate, but didn’t reject the notion.

ByABC News
June 7, 2015, 10:53 AM

— -- Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst declined to embrace the title of “kingmaker” even as seven potential Republican presidential candidates flocked to her home state to attend her inaugural “Roast and Ride” extravaganza this weekend.

The freshman Republican senator simply called herself "an advocate for Iowa" while speaking with ABC's Jonathan Karl. Republican hopefuls including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio were among those at her event Saturday.

Ernst gained attention during her run for Senate with an advertisement in which she outlined having castrated hogs while growing up on a farm. Earlier this year, the U.S. military veteran was selected to give the GOP’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Ernst delivered the response without issue and she did it wearing camo-heels.

When asked about the possibility of being considered a candidate for vice president, Ernst laughed, but didn’t reject the notion outright.

“Well, I think that's -- that's nice,” she said. “Did my mother pay you to say that?”

With the vice presidential selection process a ways off, candidates wanting to win the White House are concentrating on the early voting states, including Iowa, the first electoral test for those seeking the presidency. Ernst cited President Ronald Reagan when asked what it will take to win the critical Iowa Caucuses.

“We have to have somebody that will express conservative views of course and I’m looking for somebody that is very Reaganesque,” she said. "Someone that can reach all aspects of our voting population here in America."

She also defended the relevance of the seemingly beleaguered Iowa Straw Poll, which was won last election cycle by former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and is being skipped this year by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“I would say that I still think it is a good opportunity for our candidates and for our voters,” she said.

When it comes to matters of governing, Ernst said the process has been difficult, as she anticipated.

“You have 99 other colleagues in the Senate that you have to convince that we're doing the right thing,” she said.

But she has found partners across the aisle, including Barbara Boxer, one of California’s two Democratic senators. They co-sponsored a bill focused on arming Kurds against ISIS.

“I think Iowa said ‘What the heck is going on?' And I think California said 'What the heck is going on?’” said Ernst.

While Ernst said she is not yet ready to send U.S. troops to fight ISIS, a time may come when that is necessary.

“I think we are coming to a juncture where we will have to make that hard decision,” she said.