If you're a national political party salivating over the prospect of winning a seat that's long been in your opponent's hands, what should you do?

One strategy: give your candidate a huge megaphone.

Enter the Republican National Committee, Iowa GOP Senate nominee Joni Ernst -- and an address heard by millions around the country.

On Saturday, Ernst delivered the weekly Republican address. The candidate pushed familiar conservative themes: smaller government, opposition to Obamacare and strong national security. Ernst also played up her outsider status and pushed populist themes.

"We know, and we believe that Americans know what's best for their communities more than Washington bureaucrats," she said. The candidate noted she's a mother and grandmother who grew up on an Iowa farm.

And, as she highlighted her status as a member of the military, there was a twist.

"I am a lieutenant colonel and battalion commander in the Iowa Army National Guard," Ernst said. "In fact, I am recording this message a few days early, and by the time you hear this, I will be on active duty leading my troops for the next two weeks."

The GOP hopes Ernst's biography and political bulletins will appeal to enough Iowans to help the party win back the Senate seat that's been in Democratic hands since 1984. Sen. Tom Harkin has held the post for five terms. Early last year, he announced he would not seek a sixth term.

Ernst's chances are mixed. Iowa has Republicans in two top statewide offices -- Sen. Chuck Grassley and Gov. Terry Branstad. However, the state has voted blue in the last two presidential elections.

Ernst's Democratic challenger is Rep. Bruce Braley. A recent Quinnipiac University poll of Iowa voters showed the race essentially tied, locked within the margin of error, Braley leading Ernst 44%-40%.

Winning the Iowa seat could be key to Republicans' larger political strategy. If the party wins it and five other Democratic-held seats in November's midterm elections, Republicans would control the Senate.