NORTHWOOD, Iowa —Despite a number of vulgar statements by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst said she would continue to support his campaign.
As an outspoken advocate of military sexual assault victims, Ernst said Trump's comments from a 2005 "Access Hollywood" appearance reported by the Washington Post earlier this month would not cause her to withdraw her endorsement.
The tape appears to show Trump stating her could use the power of his celebrity influence to commit sexual assault against women. Ernst said she believed an allegation would need to be filed in criminal court.
"Well, I am going to tell you that I am not going to defend Donald Trump on those issues," she said. "I am not going to defend him and I'm not going to condone it.
"I do believe the Republican Party is where I stand," Ernst said. "I would never encourage someone to go against their ideals and values in a party platform and support ideals they don't believe in, so that's why I am sticking with the Republican ticket."
A Real Clear Politics poll averaging results from the Des Moines Register, Quinnipiac and and Loras between Sept. 13 and Oct. 6 show Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton in Iowa — 45 percent to 41.7 percent.
Ernst was speaking following a town hall-style assembly to hundreds of Northwood-Kensett high school students who asked questions ranging from her thoughts on standardized testing, the benefits and drawbacks of being a woman in an election year, responsibilities of high school students in a democracy, views on gun control, and abortion.
"They are engaged and they are paying attention," she said, "and that is important that we understand that they watch everything that we do."
The event was part of her own 99-county tour in the state.
The key for Trump at tonight's presidential debate will be to focus more on policy, she said.
"I have yet to hear either candidate fully spell out where they stand on jobs and the economy, immigration," she said. "You know, tell us to our faces through the debate channel where you stand on these issues. Because, we need to be making up our minds and we haven't heard a lot of that so far."