Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had nothing but positive things to say about Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst, who is vying for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
At an event in Cedar Rapids Friday morning, Romney was effusive about Ernst, whom he endorsed in March.
"[Ernst is] a real Iowan in a lot of respects," Romney said, according to the Des Moines Register. "She was raised here, she worked on a farm. She didn't just sit at home needle-pointing, as you know, she was doing some work on the farm -- squealing work on the farm."
Ernst has cultivated the persona Romney spoke of to her advantage. She jumped in polling after spreading her folksy appeal with an attention-grabbing television ad in which she talked about growing up castrating hogs, promising to make Washington, D.C., "squeal."
Romney contrasted Ernst's experiences with Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), in an implicit reference to criticism the Democrats' presumed Senate nominee has faced over comments he made about Sen. Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) background as a farmer.
"In November the people of Iowa will have a choice, between someone who is, as I said, a real Iowan whose picture could be in the dictionary defining an 'Iowan,' who's served her country in the military, who's been a wonderful mother, who's also been a leader in the military, and a leader in the Senate," Romney said. "You're going to have that choice versus someone who has worked as an attorney. Now there's nothing wrong with lawyers, except that we have enough of them in Washington."
Ernst heads into the June 3 Republican primary as the favorite in a field that also includes businessman Mark Jacobs and conservative professor Sam Clovis.
UPDATE -- 3:45 p.m.:
According to a New York Times reporter, Romney reiterated his comments about Ernst, with a twist, at an event later on Friday.