Newly elected Sen. Joni Ernst to give GOP response to Obama’s address

HERSHEY, Pa. — Republican officials tapped newly elected Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst on Thursday to deliver the party’s formal response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, selecting a fresh face to represent the party at the start of a new Congress and the next campaign for president.

Ernst, 44, was elected to her seat in November, capturing it after years of Democratic control. She is the first woman to represent her state in Congress.

“She is a perfect choice. Americans voted for change,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said as he and House Speaker John Boehner announced Ernst’s selection at a joint retreat of House and Senate Republicans in Hershey, Pa.

Ernst, an Iraq War veteran and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, said that when she was growing up on a farm in Southwest Iowa, she never would have imagined having such an opportunity. “Our folks back home sent us to Washington, D.C., with a clear mission and that mission is to get to work,” she said.

Obama delivers the State of the Union address on Tuesday.

It is customary for the party not in power in the White House to be granted national television time for a response to the president’s speech. In this case, Republicans hold control of both houses of Congress for the first time since Obama took office in 2009.

Delivering the response to the State of the Union can sometimes prove a perilous turn in the spotlight. Two years ago, Sen. Marco Rubio was ridiculed after lurching for a drink of water in the middle of his response, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is still remembered for his awkward performance back in 2009.