Between skipping 78 percent of his Veterans’ Affairs hearings, Larry Sabato moving Iowa’s Senate race from leans Democrat to toss-up and a staff shakeup within his campaign, it’s clear Bruce Braley had another no good, very bad, awful week.
On Monday, the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier reported that over the weekend Texas Governor Rick Perry told Bruce Braley not to mock farmers. Perry showed he had done his homework on Iowa politics. At one point in his talk he walked over to a banner promoting Sen. Charles Grassley and wrote the word “farmer” above Grassley’s name — a barb aimed at Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley who was captured on tape referring to Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” Braley, running against Republican Joni Ernst for the Senate seat, later apologized for the comment. “Don’t diss my farmers,” said Perry, again drawing huge applause.
The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier reported that Republican strategist Dave Kochel said that Bruce Braley has underperformed. The Iowa U.S. Senate race may go down to the wire, according to political consultants to candidates in top Iowa races who both predicted their party’s candidate would be victorious. … Braley, Kochel added, has “really underperformed” as a candidate – a reference to comments the four-term Democrat made about Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Fox News also reported that the Iowa GOP hammered Bruce Braley for skipping 78 percent of his Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings. Now it’s Braley’s attendance record that is under scrutiny as Republicans hammer him for missing more than two thirds of the hearings of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee on which he serves. The Cedar Rapids Gazette checked the claim and found that while Braley had a better attendance rate for subcommittee hearings, the charge was fairly rendered.
On Tuesday, the Washington Examiner reported that Bruce Braley had the second-lowest attendance record on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. This also gives him the second-lowest attendance record for the committee, according to a Washington Examiner analysis of committee minutes. Only Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., had a worse attendance record (at 16 percent). The average attendance rate for the committee was 60 percent, and just 15 of the 24 members had attendance rates above 50 percent.
Then the Des Moines Register broke the story that on September 20, 2012, Bruce Braley missed a critical VA hearing but was able to attend three fundraisers in Washington. On the same day [that he missed the VA hearing], Braley had three fundraisers on his schedule for his re-election to the U.S. House, records from the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation show. He attended all three, campaign aides confirmed to The Des Moines Register.
Things quickly spiraled out of control when Braley’s campaign said he skipped the VA hearing for another hearing, except Braley was never actually seen at the other hearing. As the Des Moines Register reports: At 10:19 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2012, the committee held a hearing on a backlog of disability claims and reports of problems with mental health care and stewardship of VA funding, congressional records show. The roll call shows Braley didn’t attend. Braley’s aides said he skipped it to attend a 9:36 a.m. Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting on the “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking scandal. The congressional record marked Braley “present,” but reveals that he offered no testimony during the three-hour hearing, which ran until 12:45 p.m. Video caught no sight of Braley. His seat isn’t always visible, but the multiple times it’s within camera view during the window the Veterans Affairs committee was in session (10:19 a.m. to 11:54 a.m.), Braley wasn’t seated, a Register review of C-SPAN 3 and committee footage found.
On Wednesday, the Republican Party of Iowa sent out a devastating release that thoroughlydiscredited Braley’s excuse for skipping the VA hearing. Bruce Braley claimed to miss the House Veterans’ Affairs hearing for a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing, but after reviewing the transcript and the footage, there were no signs of him being present.
The Quad City Times reported that Braley skipped 15 of 20 Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings. “Democratic Senate hopeful Bruce Braley is being criticized for missing most of the full Veterans Affairs Committee hearings held in 2011-12, when he was on the panel. Braley, a Democratic congressman from Waterloo, missed 15 of 20 committee meetings, including two joint sessions with the Senate, and Republicans say this shows he puts little priority on veterans issues.”
The Hill reported that Braley’s poor attendance on the VA Committee could hurt him on the campaign trail. Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) is under fire for missing a number of hearings of the committee that oversees the Veterans Administration. … The low attendance for a committee overseeing the VA, which has been embroiled in scandal, could hurt Braley on the campaign trail.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that Republicans are reminding Iowans that Braley neglected early warning signs of problems within the VA. “Republicans have charged Braley with neglecting early warnings about problems that reportedly plague VA centers across the country. Reports of VA staffers who falsely altered patient records to mask long wait times for veterans led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki earlier this year.
On Fox News, former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino gave some advice to Bruce Braley by telling him when you’re in a crisis just tell the truth. In Iowa, Bruce Braley he’s a Congressman, he’s running for the Senate in Iowa. One of the complaints, attacks from the other side, the Republicans, has been he’s on the House Veterans’ Affair Committee and missed 75% of those hearings, including one in 2012 that was an important one. You might say that’s not important, who cares, right? But he was actually — his campaign said he was at a Fast and Furious hearing. Turns out, he wasn’t there either. He was at fundraisers, which from a PR perspective just tell the truth, it would be a lot easier than what you’re dealing with.
On Thursday, it was revealed that Larry Sabato’s Center for Politics moved the Iowa Senate race from leans Democrat to toss-up. The biggest change comes in Iowa, which moves from Leans Democratic to Toss-up. After cruising through her primary, state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) has continued to perform well. Polling averages now show the race to be about an exact tie, and it’s become fairly clear that this open-seat contest represents the Republicans’ best pickup opportunity in a state won by President Obama in 2012.
On Friday, Kay Henderson at Radio Iowa reported that Concerned Veterans for America is up with an ad blasting Braley for skipping 78 percent of his Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearings. Republicans have been criticizing Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley for missing most of the hearings the Veterans Affairs Committee held when Braley was on the panel. Now, a national group is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to air that complaint in ads on Iowa TV stations.
The National Review Online reported that in 2012, Braley said he fights for veterans every day on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I fight for veterans every day on the Veterans Affairs Committee,” Representative Bruce Braley (D., Iowa) said at the Iowa Democratic Convention in 2012. That apparently-innocuous comment might just be the first five seconds of Republican ads tying Braley, who is running for Senate against Republican Joni Ernst, to the VA scandal, given that Braley failed to show up for three-quarters of the full committee hearings.
The Weekly Standard also reported that Braley falsely claimed that he fights for veterans every day on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Bruce Braley, the Iowa Democratic congressman running for U.S. Senate, touted his work on behalf of veterans at his state party’s 2012 convention. “I fight for veterans every day on the Veterans’ Affairs committee,” he said. … But it was reported this week that Braley missed 75 percent of the House committee’s hearings in 2011 and 2012, including one day during which he attended three fundraisers. Braley’s campaign has claimed he was attending a separate hearing on the Fast and Furious scandal, though there’s no evidence the Iowa Democrat was active or even present for most of that hearing, either.
The Iowa Republican Party ripped Braley for being able to attend fundraisers, but not the VA hearing in Washington. As the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier reported: Braley, a Waterloo Democrat running for U.S. Senate, recently has been criticized for absenteeism during his two-year tenure on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. … “If Bruce Braley made time for his VA hearings, like he’s able to do for his fancy D.C. fundraisers, he would’ve heard firsthand that two-thirds of our veterans have to wait over four months to receive care from the VA,” said RPI spokesman Jahan Wilcox. “Braley’s priorities in Washington are quite simple: he’s more interested in himself than helping our veterans.”
Things are so bad for Bruce Braley’s campaign that Politico reports that he replaced key members of his team. Iowa Democratic Senate hopeful Bruce Braley has shaken up his campaign … The main source of concern about Braley’s performance has tended to be the candidate himself. … It comes after a string of bad headlines for Braley, including one about his wife getting into a legal dustup with a neighbor over chickens invading her yard.
@DToddHarris: Braley: “I fight for veterans every day on the Veterans Affairs Committee.” Really? You skipped 78% of hearings. #iasen
@DDKochel: Hey @linkiowa someone fact checked your fact check and found it false. Don’t you hate it when that happens? http://www.iowagop.org/why-did-bruce-braley-skip-his-va-hearing-on-september-20-2012/
@DavidPolyansky: RT @JenniferJJacobs: #iasen race no longer leans Dem- @BruceBraley & @JoniErnst battle is a “toss-up,” @LarrySabato & @kkondik say
@DCGretchen: RT @emilyrs:Latest bad headline 4 Bruce Braley in #IASEN missed VA hearings on same day he had 3 campaing fundraisers http://goo.gl/juHlfX
@AaronBlakeWP: Bruce Braley, call your office (again)http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/elections/2014/07/22/bruce-braley-three-fundraisers-on-day-of-missed-hearing/13004385/?sf28880685=%5B%271%27%5D
@MaggiePolitico: SCOOP: Bruce Braley shook up campaign, replaced AKPD and Diane Feldman with Saul Schorr and Geoff Garin http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/bruce-braley-iowa-campaign-2014-109399.html
@JMartNYT: ”The main source of concern about Braley’s performance has tended to be the candidate himself” http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/bruce-braley-iowa-campaign-2014-109399.html
@Brook_H: Dems in Panic Mode: Struggling Bruce Braley shakes up campaignhttp://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/bruce-braley-iowa-campaign-2014-109399.html
@AmericaRising: .@BruceBraley Didn’t Just Miss His VA Hearing – He Lied About It Too http://bit.ly/1qzSuvQ