LAKE MACBRIDE— The Braley for U.S. Senate campaign came to our political precinct last night, and a small group of friends and neighbors gathered near the lake to hear what the campaign staff had to say. They were looking for help this year to contribute to the effort. No surprise there. The event kicked off the campaign in a way that will begin to get local political activists involved.
What was a surprise is that Braley hired Sarah Benzing. The surprise is that even though the hire is old news and was covered in August, it’s the first many of us that don’t follow politics regularly heard about it. Benzing was Braley’s first chief of staff after winning the 2006 election. More recently, she served as campaign manager in high profile U.S. Senate campaigns for Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Ed Markey of Massachusetts. An old, but more complete biography is here. Braley brought in someone he trusts, but more importantly, he hired a top gun in the political operative world.
Congress is in session, so Representative Braley was in Washington during the event and State Senator Bob Dvorsky spoke briefly on his behalf. The message was that despite a dysfunctional congress, Braley has been able to get some substantial work done to benefit Iowans.
What was missing from the two minute campaign video and the discussion was the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Braley sided with Republicans on the recent house vote to “fix” Obamacare, a bill the White House said would gut the ACA. It will become a political liability if Braley walks back his support for the ACA as a senate candidate. President Obama won re-election in our precinct by four votes, so it seems clear why Braley would try to hedge his bets. But fence straddling on this issue is not becoming of a candidate who asserts he is a progressive politician.
In Big Grove precinct, we gave Senator Tom Harkin 64 percent of the vote during the 2008 election, but also gave Senator Chuck Grassley 62 percent during the 2010 election. It’s no secret that the so-called no-preference voters will decide the 2014 senate race. In this precinct, somewhere between 850 and 1,000 people can be expected to vote in 2014, and that means to win the precinct, if Braley is nominated, he will have a core of 35 percent of the votes, and needs to persuade another 15-16 percent, or roughly 130-150 voters. It can be done, but it will not be a cake walk.
The group gathered last night will support Bruce Braley’s campaign going forward. Whatever he may lack as a candidate is made up by the fact that once the Republican clown car drops off their nominee next year, the race will be depicted as a high-profile duel of the titans. Money is expected to pour into the race, and one can only thank our lucky stars that our household does not turn on the television much any more. Politics is local, so what happens in Big Grove precinct has broader meaning. Maintaining the U.S. Senate majority is high on our list of priorities, and that means working now to elect Bruce Braley.