By Craig Robinson
Congressman Bruce Braley has successfully fought off another challenge by Republican Ben Lange. Lange almost upset Braley in 2010, when he came out of nowhere to finish just two points, or about 4,200 votes, shy of defeating the incumbent Democrat.
The 2010 race between Braley and Lange was one of the closest races in the nation, but the 2012 rematch didn’t live up to it’s billing. Braley was able to fend off Lange, winning re-election with 56.8 percent of the vote. Lange finished 15 points behind Braley with 41.8 percent.
Lange’s inability to defeat Braley isn’t necessarily his fault. Lange was much improved as a candidate, his campaign better run, and his team of advisors was top-notch. Lange’s second campaign was also better funded as he raised over $1 million for the effort, which is significantly more than he raised for his 2010 race. What hurt Lange in his 2012 quest against Braley was Mitt Romney’s poor showing in northeast Iowa.
In most cases, redistricting often leaves incumbents more susceptible to defeat. In Braley’s case, it may have actually saved him. The newly reconfigured 1st Congressional District picked up areas that were favorable to Braley. After redistricting, the district included Linn County, a democrat strong hold. It also included Poweshiek County, where Braley was born and raised.
Redistricting is often difficult for incumbents because it forces them to forge new relationships. In Braley’s case, the new district added areas where he was already well-known and that suited his liberal politics.
Braley is now battle-tested and could seriously consider seeking higher office in future cycles. Braley’s ability to run a statewide campaign is unknown, but he’s a liberal’s liberal and a trial lawyer to boot, which means national Democrats are sure to support him if or when he chooses to throw his hat into the ring for a statewide race in 2014 or 2016.
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