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.
blog comments powered by Disqus