Before the 2010 mid-term elections, the toughest campaign Congressman Bruce Braley ever had to endure was winning his primary against three other opponents. Braley received only 36 percent of the vote in the Democrat 1st Congressional District primary in 2006. He only beat his closest opponent, Rick Dickenson, by 518 votes.
In the general election that year, Braley sailed to a pretty easy victory. 2006 turned out to be a wave election for Democrats. He beat Davenport businessman, Mike Whalen, by almost 25,000 votes. Two years later, Republicans didn’t put up much of a fight to win back the seat. If 2006 was bad for Republicans, 2008 was even worse. Braley garnered 64 percent of the vote that year.
In 2010, many, including Braley himself, thought that he wasn’t going to face much of a challenge. Ben Lange, the Republicans candidate running against him, was young, not well known, and hadn’t raised much money. That all changed when the American Future Fund, an Iowa-based issue advocacy group, showed interest in the race.
Braley’s race against Lange became the one that Iowa Republicans let slip away. Lange won six of the twelve counties in the District, and was competitive everywhere, even in Scott County, the largest in the district. However, it wasn’t quite enough to knock off Braley, who won with 48.4 percent to Lange’s 46.5 percent.
Braley’s narrow win against Lange came at a high cost. Braley’s inability to break the 50 percent threshold means that Republicans will be targeting his seat in 2012. He will also have to campaign in a new district, which is another advantage for whoever his Republican opponent will be.
Those two factors mean that the 1st Congressional race in 2012 will be targeted from the get-go in 2012. Lange, or whoever is running in the District, will not have to wait and hope for the National Republican Congressional Committee or one of the many conservative groups to get interested in the contest. The RNCC will likely already be targeting the district.
Braley has also lost his seat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. According to the Politico, “The party’s most talented young guns are getting knocked off A-list committees precisely because they’re young and talented — good enough to get on the committees in the first place but too new to Congress to have attained much seniority.”
Apparently, Braley’s loyalty to Nancy Pelosi was not enough to keep his position on the committee. In essence, it’s like Braley has been forced to start his congressional career over again. He was forced to empty his campaign account in his race against Lange, and now he’s a member of the minority party without a seat on a powerful committee, something that would help him raise money for his next campaign.
Braley and his supporters celebrated a victory on November 2nd, but it’s doubtful that any of them could fathom how different life will be for Braley in the new Congress. Just as quick as the weather changes in Iowa, Braley has gone from a bright, rising star to a pedestrian congressman with a target on his back for the 2012 campaigns. It looks like it wasn’t much of a victory for Braley on November 2nd.
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