Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Montgomery County is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa in 2014. UPI/Joni Ernst for Senate/Shealah Craighead
DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Joni Ernst is locked in a close race for Senate in Iowa, but with just five days to go before election day, the state senator is feeling good about her chances.
"It is going to be a tight race," Ernst said on Fox News Thursday. "I think we are going to finish strong and I believe I will be the next United States senator from Iowa."
Ernst, an Army veteran and a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, has served in the Iowa State Senate since 2011. She took a surprise lead in the Republican primary with an ad touting her ability to cut "pork" in Congress and has gone on a strong run since.
She and U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, have swapped leads in the polls since the primary, with Ernst holding a small but steady advantage since mid-September. A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed her with a 4-point lead over Braley, but a Loras College poll Tuesday gave Braley a 1-point lead. Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight gives Ernst a 67 percent chance of winning on Tuesday, while the Cook Political Report rates the state as a toss-up.
Ernst, 44, said her background -- and her opposition to President Obama's policies -- makes her exactly what Iowans want in 2014.
"President Obama has a very low approval rating here in Iowa," she said. "Congressman Braley has supported him and his failed policies, and Iowans want to see a change. They want to see someone who does have experience when it comes to foreign policy and military affairs, someone that has done great things under the leadership of Governor Terry Branstad."
Last week, Ernst was deeply criticized for skipping a series of meetings with local news outlets, opening her to the charge that she can't handle scrutiny.
Candidates typically sit down for off-the-record interviews with editorial boards, who then make endorsements. Those meetings are considered an opportunity to get an unfiltered sense of a candidate, who might otherwise be known to the public only through scripted speeches, TV spots and statements carefully crafted by spokespeople.
On Thursday, Ernst dismissed the accusations she had something to hide.
"I think that would hurt me at this point," Ernst said, of meeting with the newspapers, specifically, the Des Moines Register.
"They made it very clear in a number of editorials that they would not be supporting my candidacy," she said. "It's better for me to be on the road visiting with Iowans than to sit in front of a board that was not going to endorse me."
Including spending from outside groups, the Iowa Senate race is shaping up to be the third-most expensive race of the cycle, costing more than $84 million, and the fourth-most expensive congressional race ever, surpassed only by this year's races in North Carolina and Colorado, and the race for Senate New York in 2000, won by Hillary Clinton.