Bruce Braley’s Miserable Summer

On Memorial Day, public polling had Bruce Braley at 41 percent and Joni Ernst at 35 percent.  Yet between referring to his opponent as a chick, falsely claiming to be a farmer at a July 4th parade, his threat to sue his neighbor and news that he skipped 75 percent of the VA hearings, Iowans quickly learned this summer that Braley is an arrogant, self-serving Congressman. 

Faced with the reality that Braley is a deeply flawed candidate, national Democrats have shaken up his campaign and liberal outside groups have outspent Republicans by over $2 million. With 66 days until the election, recent polling confirms that the money isn’t helping as Ernst has already closed the gap with Braley and is moving to take the lead. 

The News That Drove The Summer …   

On Memorial Day, the Washington Post reported that Bruce Braley held a 41 to 35 point lead over Joni Ernst. A poll by Democratic firm PPP of the Iowa Senate race shows Bruce Braley leading probable nominee Joni Ernst by 6 points, which perhaps suggests that his farmer gaffe — widely and gleefully cited by Republicans — didn’t end his candidacy.
After Joni Ernst took 56 percent of the vote in a five-way primary, Braley unleashed a sexist ad where he compared her to a chick. As CBS News reported: A word for the wise: If you’re a male candidate running against a woman hoping to make history as the first female federal officeholder in her state, you might want to refrain from comparing her to a baby chick in your campaign advertisements.

While walking in a July 4th Parade, Braley got in the face of an Iowan and falsely claimed that he was a farmer. As the Des Moines Register reported: Democrat Bruce Braley, who was caught on tape in January making a remark that seemed to besmirch Iowa farmers, has been caught on tape seemingly claiming to be one.  “We’re farmers,” a parade attendee appears to tells Braley, a U.S. Senate candidate, during the Fourth of July parade in Iowa Falls last weekend.  “So am I,” Braley answers in a video shared with The Des Moines Register today.  “But so is Grassley,” says the woman, who is seated in a lawn chair on the side of the road.  “So am I,” Braley insists.  Braley is not an active farmer. 

With the VA crumbling, the Des Moines Register reported that Braley skipped 75 percent of Veterans Affairs hearings. Over a two-year period, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley missed 75 percent of meetings for a committee that provides oversight over the Veterans Administration, including one meeting on a day he attended three fundraisers for his 2012 campaign.

The Washington Post reported that Braley threatened to sue his neighbor over therapeutic chickens. This spring, Pauline Hampton’s chickens roamed onto Bruce and Carolyn Braley’s vacation property on tranquil Holiday Lake. … Carolyn took her complaint to their neighborhood homeowners’ association board meeting in May. Her husband, Bruce, then called the association’s lawyer, Thomas Lacina, to say that he believed “chickens are not pets and should not be permitted at Holiday Lake,” and that he wanted to “avoid a litigious situation,” according to an e-mail Lacina wrote.

Frustrated by his self-inflicted mistakes, Politico reported that Braley fired some of his top aides. Iowa Democratic Senate hopeful Bruce Braley has shaken up his campaign, parting ways with admaker Larry Grisolano and pollster Diane Feldman after Republican Joni Ernst emerged from the primary with more momentum than anticipated, three sources confirmed to POLITICO.

NBC‘s Chuck Todd reported that national Democrats also played a role in the staff shake-up. It is.  He has been a stumbling, stumbler and a bumbler and somehow the DSCC is now shaking up the campaign team. 

During his lone visit to the State Fair, the National Journal reported that Braley’s handlers built a wall to separate their boss from Iowans. The staffers served as a buffer between Braley and the handful of GOP trackers and hecklers who trailed him—one man dressed as a chicken, another as a pig—but ultimately ended up keeping away regular people as well. It seemed to annoy fairgoers more than endear him to them.  “Gimme a break,” one man said as he tried to pass by Braley and the group in the Varied Industries Building.

Roll Call’s photojournalist Tom Williams captured the moment of Braley’s handlers creating the barrier between him and folks at the fair.  Braley delivered his stump speech on Thursday and then walked the grounds with a motley crew in tow, including: staff, reporters, filmmakers, opposition trackers, hecklers holding signs and random hangers-on. 

In an ugly episode revealing Braley’s true identity, the Washington Free Beaconreported that in 2009 he berated a female witness over her level of education. At a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing in 2009, [Braley] questioned the credentials of Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute.  Despite authoring several books and articles as a noted health care expert, Braley repeatedly peppered Pipes with questions about whether she was a “health policy expert,” whether she had an “advanced degree in economics,” and whether she was a “scholar.”

WHO-AM Radio reported that during an interview with a Florida radio station, Braley proudly said that he talks to Iowans “in terms they can understand.” In a 2011 radio interview in Florida – apparently he still doesn’t have time to keep his promise to come on my show – Congressman Bruce Braley says he overcomes his elitist image by talking to Iowans “in terms they can understand”. Well that should go a long way to getting rid of that whole “elitist” thing!

The Weekly Standard reported that Braley claims that the most important place he visits is his exclusive gym. Once considered a leading Democratic recruit, Braley has feverishly been fending off a perception that he’s elitist and out of touch with regular Iowa voters. … In one clip, shot during a 2012 interview with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, Braley says the gym in the House of Representatives is “one of the most important places I go.”

Roll Call’s Stu Rothenberg reported that Iowa is one of the Republican Party’s best pick-up opportunities. Stuart Rothenberg said it’s “something of a surprise” that Iowa is now one of the GOP’s best opportunities to pick up a U.S. Senate seat. … But the combination of an interesting Republican nominee in Ernst plus missteps by Braley “has smart Democrats fretting about the contest,” Rothenberg said.

The Cook Political Report’s Jennifer Duffy reported that Braley has not run a flawless campaign. Duffy, of the Cook Report, said Braley hasn’t run a flawless campaign. ‘From insulting Sen. Grassley to failing to show up at committee and subcommittee hearings, he has handed Republicans a lot to work with,’ she told the Register.

The Daily Beast reported Braley’s presidential endorsement for disgraced trial lawyer John Edwards is not helping his campaign. In retrospect, it might have been a better political decision for a Democratic elected official to endorse almost anyone for president rather than John Edwards in 2008. The politically toxic legacy of the ex-senator has the potential to be used against a number of candidates this year and it already is being brought up against Congressman Bruce Braley, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Iowa.  A parody video made by Republican PAC America Rising attacking Braley has been circulating across the Internet on Thursday.

Finally, as we close out the summer the Des Moines Register reported that the two candidates are now tied at 40 percent. With less than 70 days of campaigning left, the U.S. Senate race in Iowa is as close as they come.  Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst are absolutely deadlocked in one of the highest-profile contests in the nation this year, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll shows.  The survey of likely Iowa voters shows 40.2 percent favoring Braley, a four-term congressman from Waterloo, and 40.0 percent supporting Ernst, a state senator from Red Oak.