CARROLL – U.S. Senate hopeful Bruce Braley ventured into western Iowa for the first public stops of his campaign to replace longtime Democrat Senator Tom Harkin. The First District Congressman attracted a crowd of 12 local Democrats to an event at Sam’s Soda and Sandwiches in Carroll on Wednesday. That was preceded by a visit with 15 locals in Ft. Dodge earlier in the day.
The events were informal by design. During his stop in Carroll, held during the noon hour, Braley posed for pictures, shook hands and chatted with customers. Then he sat at a table with local Democrat activists to ask for their organizational help.
“The first four words I want you to remember, because I think they’re critical about this senate race, for Democrats in a mid-term election, we aren’t going to have President Obama on top of this ticket,” Braley told attendees in Carroll. “So the first four words are: I need your help.”
Braley has almost no chance to win in the Republican-heavy western Iowa areas he is visiting this week. However, if he can avoid a huge blowout in the state’s most conservative area, Braley is likely to win the race. The more densely populated and left-leaning eastern side of Iowa will almost certainly support Braley, no matter which candidate Republicans choose to run against him.
“I want to hear from you,” Braley told the activists in Carroll. “I want to know what’s going on here. I want to make sure we’re reaching out and connecting with the people in this area. Let’s get to work…We can’t afford to wait until after Labor Day for me to be successful.”
Congressman Braley encouraged the attendees to sell his story with their friends and neighbors. He talked about growing up in a small town and working across the aisle to get legislation passed in the U.S. House. It is the typical spiel Braley gives in public settings.
Although the American Conservative Union rates Congressman Braley a “true liberal”, based on his 2012 voting record, he sells himself as a moderate. Braley earned a 0% rating on ACU’s scorecard. Ultra-liberal Democrat House leader Nancy Pelosi scored 4%. That means the American Conservative Union ranks Braley as more liberal than Pelosi.
Still, the 12 Democrats who came to listen to Braley in Carroll on Wednesday liked what they heard.
“I’m excited about him,” said Marsha Nuckles. “I think he’s a really good candidate. I think he really wants to work with other people in a bipartisan way and he has done that, so I’m excited about his candidacy.”
So, with $1 million already in the bank, the candidate already on the campaign trail and endorsements from almost every prominent Democrat official in the state, there is no doubt the Bruce Braley has a huge head start in this vital U.S. Senate race. The Republican field is frozen until Fourth District Congressman Steve King decides whether or not to run. Many Democrats hope he will.
“I think if Steve King is his opponent, we win eastern Iowa and we have to fight for every vote in western Iowa,” said Carroll native Kirk Ulveling, who lives in Cedar Rapids but was in town for family business and attended the event. “Likewise for Congressman King. I think it will be extremely close.”
Ulveling says is a registered independent and a longtime supporter of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. However, Ulveling is actively supporting Braley’s campaign because he believes Congressman Steve King is too right wing. King is expected to announce his decision soon on whether or not to run for the U.S. Senate seat.
Bruce Braley reportedly drew small crowds at all of his western Iowa events on Wednesday. Sources say there were only 18 people on hand for a fundraiser in Council Bluffs. He visits Red Oak, Creston and Osceola on Thursday.
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