DES MOINES, Iowa -- Moments after Joni Ernst got elected Iowa's first female member of Congress, her phone started buzzing. Well-known names from across the country called and texted their congratulations for winning the epic U.S. Senate contest that helped push Republicans back into party control of the chamber.
"I did hear from President Bush...Bush 43," Ernst told Channel 13 news Wednesday after a late breakfast with several dozen staffers at Des Moines' Drake Diner. "Mitt Romney had called. Senator Rubio called. Oh, gosh, I had so many calls," Ernst said.
The retiring leader Ernst will replace in the senate, Democrat Tom Harkin, also called to offer his best wishes.
Ernst's campaign declined to reveal the other V.I.P. names and potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates who left her messages. A spokesman only mentioned "tons of senators."
One person who did not call was President Barack Obama. The White House released the names of winning candidates and other leaders Obama called. But it didn't include Ernst.
Ernst said she learned from staff Tuesday night in her West Des Moines hotel room that she would win. "I thought, wow! I'm going to be the next Unites States Senator from Iowa," Ernst said, "And it was thinking now is when the really hard work begins."
Working on veterans and agricultural issues, along with finding ways to balance the budget are on Ernst's "to do list" for her new job.
As she reflected on what was ahead for her, and the numerous calls from VIP supporters, Ernst teared up talking about those other calls she received from people who couldn't be with her on election night to witness her history-setting achievement. "The folks here in Iowa, friends and family that I had at home that weren't able to be up here last night, those are the calls that mean the most to me."