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October 27th, 2010

Democrats Scramble to Save Braley

Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley is a rising star in Democrat circles. As one of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lieutenants, Braley quickly rose to prominence among his colleagues. As a loyal Pelosi foot solider, the Speaker counted on Braley’s vote on controversial issues like cap and trade, stimulus spending, government bailouts, and Obamacare. Braley proudly cast votes in favor of that legislation, even though the people in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District disagreed with these proposals.

Braley’s unwavering support of the Obama/Pelosi agenda has already paid off. In early 2009, Braley was named one of the Vice Chairmen of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Braley’s new position was a reward for his loyalty, but it was also validation that Democrats saw Braley as a fixture in Democrat politics for years to come. Yet nobody could foretell that Braley would be in the fight of his political life in 2010.

In just a matter of a few weeks, Bruce Braley has gone from being a lock to climb the ranks in Washington D.C., to an incumbent who is in desperate need of outside help. If you want to know how important Bruce Braley is to Democrats in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden is spending the Friday morning before the midterm election helping him. Likewise, labor unions and the DCCC have run to Braley’s aid in the final days of the campaign.

Commonsense Ten, a third party liberal group, has also placed $175,000 of ads attacking Lange recently. Commonsense Ten brags about receiving unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, and labor unions on its website. Braley has lashed out at conservative groups that have focused on highlighting his record in Congress. He has also said that outside groups are a biggest threat to democracy, however, Braley doesn’t have a problem with the outside group that is helping him.

The Commonsense Ten ad provides us with a glimpse of the trouble Braley is in. The ad attacks Lange for wanting to raise taxes on most Iowans, provide tax cuts for millionaires, and cut social security benefits among other things. The part of the ad that tells you the most about the race is how they repeatedly refer to Lange. The ad begins by saying, “That Ben Lange seems like a nice young man,” and then, after it distorts his record, the ad concludes by saying, “and he seems so nice…”

While Braley was out chasing down post office boxes and attacking groups whose name doesn’t appear on the ballot, Lange was busy traveling the 1st Congressional District introducing himself to voters. Braley’s absence allowed Lange’s campaign to gain traction. Lange has also been able to produce very simple but effective television ads to introduce him to the voters. The ads cast Lange as a young, independent, freedom loving candidate who is upset with the direction of the current congress.

Obviously Lange’s television ads and campaign have been effective. Lange doesn’t just have Braley on the ropes in Iowa’s 1st District; he’s on the verge of scoring a knockout. That’s why Vice President Biden is visiting later this week. That’s why the labor unions have flooded mailboxes with attacks on Lange. And, that’s why the DCCC and Commonsense Ten are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads in the final week.

The problem for Braley and the Democrats is that they didn’t realize that they had a problem until it was too late. The Iowa-based American Future Fund has been beating up Braley since the last week in September. Other groups have now joined AFF on the airwaves in the 1st District. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent $248,000 on ads against Braley and Dick Morris’ Super PAC for America has spent almost $60,000 in the district.

To illustrate just how much trouble Braley is in, Lange and these conservative groups will have run nearly $1.9 million in television ads against Braley before Election Day. Braley and his allies, on the other hand, will have only spent around $700,000 on television ads. The almost three to one advantage in advertising has turned the 1st District race on its head.

What Congressman Braley thought was going to be a routine re-election campaign has turned out to be the complete opposite. In the final days of the election, Braley now finds himself as the most high profile, most endangered incumbent in the U.S. House of Representatives.

If Braley is defeated next Tuesday, it will symbolize how deep the Republican wave was in the 2010 elections. If he is able to survive the challenge from Lange, his negatives will be so severely high that it’s likely that he will be done advancing in Democrat leadership.

Not only would a Braley defeat hit Speaker Pelosi close to home, but it would also devastate Iowa Democrats who see Braley as the heir apparent to Senator Tom Harkin’s U.S. Senate seat, which is up in 2014. If that happens, Iowa Democrats will see their bench be decimated since it will be without an up and coming leader under the age of 50.

Oddly enough, it seems like Braley’s race is ground zero for the 2010 U.S. House campaigns. That fact alone tells you how much politics can change in a short period of time.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and TheIowaRepublican.com as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, TheIowaRepublcian.com. Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.




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