A candidate that understands service.

A new item on Lt. Col. Joni Ernst’s checklist as she packed up for two weeks of annual training with the Iowa National Guard: denounce the health care law in the weekly Republican radio address.

An Iowa state senator who is running for the U.S. Senate, Ernst is leaving the campaign just as her bid against Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley is heating up. She won a five-way Republican primary last month and immediately joined Braley in a fierce back-and-forth over who should take the place of retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

Then duty called. Just hours after she taped the Republicans’ national address Thursday night, Ernst drove two hours in the dark from her rural southwest Iowa home to join her unit. She was assigned to lead a convoy of trucks to Wisconsin for two weeks of drilling at Fort McCoy.

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