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July 26, 2014

Braley’s Opponent? Two Seem Most Likely From Crowded Field

Braleys Opponent? Two Seem Most Likely From Crowded Field

Iowa Democratic Senate hopeful Rep. Bruce Braley doesn't know yet which Republican candidate he'll be facing in November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Residing outside of the competitive Senate landscape’s top tier most of this election cycle, Iowa Republicans believe they are finally gaining some momentum for the state’s open seat, particularly by avoiding a nominating convention.

The release Tuesday of a video taken of Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley’s remarks at a Texas fundraiser was just the cherry on top of an already renewed sense of optimism among Republicans that the party will put up a competitive nominee. Several things still need to go the GOP’s way for success in November, but Republican insiders in the state see positive signs.

Along with President Barack Obama’s approval ratings in the Hawkeye State falling to 36 percent in a Des Moines Register poll taken last month, the crowded and unproven Republican primary field is beginning to shake out, and the party’s chances of nominating a candidate in the primary — and dodging a potentially debilitating convention — are improving.

“I think the notion of a convention choosing our Senate nominee gets more remote by the day,” said one veteran Iowa Republican operative without ties to any of the campaigns.

Democrats remain favored to hold the seat of longtime Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, who announced his retirement 14 months ago. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, opted against running — and later announced his own retirement from the House — and a handful of lesser-known contenders are facing off for the nomination.

Meanwhile, Braley, a four-term congressman, had $2.6 million in cash on hand by the end of the year — a number that dwarfed the GOP competition and is likely to increase by Monday’s first-quarter filing deadline.

Still, the video released Tuesday by GOP opposition research group America Rising offered an unhelpful round of press for Braley, who will likely see the clip used against him in ads this fall.

Speaking to a group of attorneys and potential donors, Braley, himself a lawyer, said it was important he win and Democrats hold the Senate. Should Democrats lose, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school,” would serve as the Senate’s next Judiciary chairman. Grassley has been re-elected easily since entering the Senate in 1981 and continues to earn strong approval ratings back home.

If nothing else, Republicans in the state hope the gaffe will force Braley to dip into his war chest earlier than expected to run positive TV ads.

“The conventional wisdom of six months ago that this was a safe Democratic seat is maybe open to question now,” said Iowa GOP consultant Bob Haus.

But before Republicans can focus on Braley, the party must weather the June 3 primary. While the initial GOP field included more than a half-dozen GOP hopefuls, some Iowa Republican operatives said it has dwindled to two clear front-runners: state Sen. Joni Ernst and former energy executive Mark Jacobs.

Iowa Democrats agree, and the Braley campaign has signaled it views Jacobs as the front-runner: recent statements are focused squarely on him.

“If you look at where the Republican candidates stand in the money race and what the next two months look like, it’s clear Jacobs has a big advantage [in the primary] in terms of being able to fund a campaign,” one Iowa Democrat said. “Any reasonable person will tell you Jacobs has the edge.”

With a top-tier field of two, Republicans say the party is more likely than ever to avoid a June 14 nominating convention — a rare process sparked when no candidate garners at least 35 percent in the primary earlier that month. Conventions often turn out the GOP’s most loyal activists and can increase the possibility of nominating a weaker general election candidate.

Republican operatives said Ernst’s background — she is a military veteran and farmer with ties to rural communities in Iowa — is likely a better contrast to Braley, especially after his unforced error. But Ernst has struggled to raise the kind of money it takes to compete in a statewide race, unlike Jacobs, who has proven he is willing to spend his own personal resources.

For Ernst backers, with a renewed national focus on the race following Braley’s comments, plus recent endorsements by Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin and a small ad buy featuring pig castration that got big national play, there is hope national donors could start to open their pockets.

“Most conservative state lawmakers are on her side and now Palin, but she’s also got guys like Mitt Romney and David Oman, who chaired Romney’s campaign in Iowa and helped raise funds,” said one Iowa Republican operative with ties to the Ernst campaign. “So that is playing right into the narrative they want running into the two month sprint to the primary.”

  • YONATAN C

    I wish to thank the Republican Senate, on behalf of the two million of us unemployed workers with families, who have been hurt and have struggled economically throughout these past several months without our continued benefits. It’s comforting to know that they are truly the party for ” family values”. This is clearly shown by their compassion and their generosity towards the poor. You can say that they made me what I am today, unemployed, and living on the street. While they continued playing their “party politics”, and taking frequent breaks and vacations, many of us have faced eviction from our homes, bankruptcy, and many are currently homeless like me. I think it was very kind and understanding of you to label us “lazy”,and “unwilling to work”. It’s our fault for the economic meltdown. After all, it was because of our own greed and unsound decision practices, that the poor Banking and Airline industry needed to be bailed out with our tax payer’s dollars. I’m so happy that all those poor bankers and CEO’s didn’t have to face prosecution , or be fined in anyway. I would hate to think that they suffered in any way. It warms my heart as I’m living on the street, that your lives are going well and that your families are all well fed, and have a beautiful home.

    • OldestandWisest

      I’m afraid there is an error in your message, to be completely accurate, you need to replace the word “Republican” in the first line with “Democrat.” Otherwise, I agree with it completely.

      • View From The Left

        I’m afraid that you did not try hard enough to understand what YonatanC was saying. Don’t feel bad, you’re a conservative and they use less brain power….but you MUST try harder so you don’t look so ridiculous.

        http://phys.org/news/2012-04-effort-opinions.html

  • YONATAN C

    I wish to thank the Republican Senate, on behalf of the two million of us unemployed workers with families, who have been hurt and have struggled economically throughout these past several months without our continued benefits. It’s comforting to know that they are truly the party for ” family values”. This is clearly shown by their compassion and their generosity towards the poor. You can say that they made me what I am today, unemployed, and living on the street. While they continued playing their “party politics”, and taking frequent breaks and vacations, many of us have faced eviction from our homes, bankruptcy, and many are currently homeless like me. I think it was very kind and understanding of you to label us “lazy”,and “unwilling to work”. It’s our fault for the economic meltdown. After all, it was because of our own greed and unsound decision practices, that the poor Banking and Airline industry needed to be bailed out with our tax payer’s dollars. I’m so happy that all those poor bankers and CEO’s didn’t have to face prosecution , or be fined in anyway. I would hate to think that they suffered in any way. It warms my heart as I’m living on the street, that your lives are going well and that your families are all well fed, and have a beautiful home. I bet the millions of us unemployed are dancing in the street just knowing that you are living the dream.

    • Pragmatic Conservative

      Perhaps you didn’t see the news that Democrats control the Senate, and have refused to pay for an extension of unemployment benefits. Or that Obama’s stimulus did nothing to help the economy, or that his anti-business regulations are encouraging businesses to not start hiring again, thereby keeping millions unemployed. Or maybe you didn’t notice that Wall Street contributes as much, if not more, to Democrats these days.
      I honestly feel bad for those who have faced long-term unemployment. I’ve been there myself. But I can’t feel bad for whiners who voted for the very people that have kept our economy from growing again, while complaining that those they didn’t vote for aren’t doing enough to help them.

      • teapartyidiots

        Er, no, they just refused to pay the way the Republicans wanted to.

        • Pragmatic Conservative

          Sorry, bu that’s not true. Democrats have consistently refused to seek any funding for an extension, claiming it was an “emergency” and therefore not necessary. Only very recently have Dems offered any offsets, and that has generally been in the form of budget gimmicks rather than real offsets.

          • teapartyidiots

            Whatever. Let people starve over semantics and whining.

          • Pragmatic Conservative

            Whatever. Let people starve rather than actually be willing to reduce less important funding somewhere else.

          • teapartyidiots

            They offered up some defense funds that aren’t being used, but you can’t touch the war machine.

          • Pragmatic Conservative

            First of all, that was only after numerous refusals to provide any funding at all.
            Second, Overseas Contingency Operations “funds” (which the Democrats want to use) aren’t a pool of funds that are available for use. They are nothing more than a accounting mechanism for funds that are being borrowed to pay for Afghanistan. The fact that we choose not to spend them there does not suddenly mean we have millions more to spend elsewhere, it means we just aren’t going to have to borrow as much.
            Third, the Democrats have been very clear, that in the massive federal budget there is nothing worth actually cutting to reduce spending enough that we could pay for an unemployment extension. Sounds to me like the Dems are the ones willing to let people starve.

  • Pale Ryder

    Despite seductive illusions and promises of equality, the spoils of collectivism’s plunder are practically available only to the collective’s masters.

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