Freshman Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, who became internet-famous after running an ad about her hog-castration skills, will deliver the Republican response to the president’s State of the Union speech.
Ernst is the Senate’s first female combat veteran, and served in the Iowa state senate before defeating Democrat Bruce Braley in the contest for now-retired Sen. Tom Harkin’s old seat. She was one of the few Republicans in any competitive primary race to win support from both establishment and Tea Party Republicans, grabbing endorsements from both Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin.
Responding to the president’s address on Tuesday night gives Ernst a chance to test out her rhetoric in front of a massive national audience. In the past, her Tea Party-friendly sensibilities have gotten her into trouble a few times. She’s called Obama a dictator and entertained dubious conspiracy theories about the U.N.’s Agenda 21 forcing farmers to move to the big city. This means that Democrats will likely look to paint her as “Iowa’s Sarah Palin”—a charge Jay Newton-Small discussed in detail at Time. But Republicans will tout her as a fresh and compelling standard-bearer. Don’t expect any calls for Obama to get impeached.
Ernst won’t be on her own Tuesday night. Republicans have also tapped Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Cuban-American freshman from Florida, to deliver a Spanish translation of her speech and make the GOP more diverse than the Oscars, at least for one night.