The 'political gaffe of the year' might just hand GOP the Iowa Senate seat
The only Democrat running in the primary for the open Senate seat in Iowa made a spectacular gaffe before a roomfull of trial lawyers in Texas.
Standing next to a table full of booze, Rep. Bruce Braley insulted farmers, praised lawyers, and belittled the second most popular political figure in Iowa.
Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat running for Senate, was caught on videotape disparaging fellow Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school” — comments that later drew an apology from the candidate.
The video, posted online Tuesday afternoon by GOP opposition research firm America Rising, shows Braley speaking to what the group described as a group of lawyers at a fundraiser in Texas.
“If you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice — someone who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way on the Senate Judiciary” Committee, said Braley, a trial lawyer by training who is running to replace Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. “Or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary. Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary.”
Braley is the sole Democratic candidate in a race that could, as he alludes to in the video, help determine which party controls the Senate after November. He faces whoever emerges from a crowded Republican primary field that includes state Sen. Joni Ernst, businessman Mark Jacobs and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker.
Ernst demanded Braley apologize to Grassley and “and every other farmer in Iowa.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Braley issued a statement of apology for his comments, noting that he respects the GOP’s Grassley and is descended from a family with a farming background.
“I apologize to Sen. Grassley and anyone I may have offended,” Braley said. “My parents both grew up on Iowa farms during the Great Depression. It deeply influenced who they are and who I am, and gave me a profound appreciation for what farmers do for the world.”
The Democrat also insisted that he’s the better candidate for Iowa’s farmers.
This is a gift from the political gods and Republicans have to take advantage of it. Slate's John Dickerson calls it "The Political Gaffe of the Year":
Why is this so awful? Let us count the ways. Iowa is a farm state, and it's never a good idea to disparage one of the state's chief occupations. Next, it’s particularly not a good idea to demean your state when you’re somewhere else: In this case, Braley was speaking in Texas. Next, Braley, a trial lawyer, was making his pitch to a room full of trial lawyers at a private fundraiser (which is why he didn’t think he was being recorded). Trial lawyers are perhaps the most unpopular constituency among Republican base voters—besides Obama administration officials. Since midterm elections are all about motivating your base, Braley has given his opponent a turnout gift. Next, look where Braley is standing: If you’re going to talk down to Iowa farmers, at least don't do it next to a table of booze. It makes for amusing viewing and that reinforces the idea for voters that you're not one of them.
The GOP candidates are largely unknown, although businessman Jacobs has been spending a lot of his own money on name recognition. It hardly seems to matter. Two-thirds of voters are not familiar with any of the major Republican candidates which makes taking advantage of this gaffe problematic.
Still, you can expect that video of Braley's insult to farmers to be used extensively in the months ahead.