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Iowa Senate Candidates Get In Last-Minute Campaigning


Sometimes it's worth putting politics in perspective. In Iowa, there were all the signs of a typical fall weekend. Late harvesting is underway. On Saturday, folks woke up to a heavy frost on the ground, and big crowds sat in the crisp air watching college football in Iowa City and Ames. And candidates in one of the nation's hardest fought U.S. Senate races crisscrossed the state, urging supporters to get to the polls tomorrow and bring a friend while they're at it. NPR's Don Gonyea is there, too.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: About 600 people chose politics over early afternoon football Saturday to turn out in support of Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley at an outdoor plaza in downtown Des Moines. Part of the draw was the warm-up act, singer James Taylor.


JAMES TAYLOR: (Singing) Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel.

GONYEA: Of course, a free concert comes with a pitch.


TAYLOR: And as many of you as - can, should volunteer to go out and help get every last vote out there.

GONYEA: Next up, the candidate, Bruce Braley, appropriated a lyric from the songwriter as he lashed out at the millions and millions of dollars that outside groups have spent in the state, most of it on attack ads.


REPRESENTATIVE BRUCE BRALEY: But if you're one of those secret donors who's afraid to show your face in Iowa by lying about who I am and what I stand for, well, then I've got a song for you. Well, I'm a steamroller baby, and I'm going to roll all over you.

GONYEA: The big headliner at this event and at another this weekend in Waterloo was Bill Clinton, who acknowledged that he was amused by some of the ads being run by the Republican in the race, State Senator Joni Ernst. There's the most famous one where Ernst says she learned how to castrate hogs as a young girl on the farm and that she'll cut pork and make Washington squeal. Clinton said it's clever, but...


PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I don't want to hear any minimum-wage workers squeal. I don't want to hear any working people and middle-class people, who haven't had an income increase and don't know what to do to support their kids, squeal.

GONYEA: Now to the Republicans. Joni Ernst joined a weekend caravan with others on the Iowa ballot for a series of smaller events at businesses, coffee shops and this one yesterday at the tiny train station in Osceola. The biggest name on the tour was Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. He spoke to what an Ernst win would mean nationally.


GOVERNOR TERRY BRANSTAD: Iowa becomes the state that puts the Republicans in the majority, which means that Harry Reid can no longer block the agenda in the United States Senate.

GONYEA: It's worth noting that Branstad leads his race for re-election by a huge margin and could provide coat-tails for the entire GOP ticket. These Republican events weren't really rallies. Speeches were short. Ernst spoke for just 11 minutes and offered this shorthand description of her opponent.


JONI ERNST: Higher spending, more taxes, more job-killing rules and regulations and Obamacare. And Obamacare is not working for Iowans.

GONYEA: Again, the focus was on getting out the vote and lest anyone forget we're in Iowa, here's how State Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey put it.


BILL NORTHEY: And I feel like Tuesday is our harvest day. Everybody has invested a lot in this crop, and it's time for us to be able to get out and make sure that we don't leave any crop in that field.

GONYEA: All year, the Iowa U.S. Senate race to replace five-term Democrat Tom Harkin has been close. It's a prime opportunity for a GOP pickup. And a new Des Moines register poll over the weekend gives Ernst a seven-point lead, her biggest yet and with just days to go. Republicans see it as a national trend - races breaking their way in the final week. Ernst supporter Joyce Hardisty was at the Osceola event with her grandkids.

JOYCE HARDISTY: I think it's awesome. But things can change by Election Day, you know. You never know until the final votes are in.

GONYEA: Both candidates in Iowa will be going nonstop until tomorrow. For Ernst, a 24-hour campaign swing, while Braley will traverse the state from west to east today. Don Gonyea. NPR News. Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Don Gonyea
You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.