Dems Fear Backlash After Candidate's Insult to Farmers

Wednesday, 26 Mar 2014 11:10 PM

By Joe Schaeffer

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If you’re running for a Senate seat in Iowa, it seems the last demographic you’d want to alienate is farmers.

That’s what Rep. Bruce Braley did, and now Democrats fear they may reap a bitter harvest from the colossal blunder come November.

Braley was captured on video at a January Texas fundraiser mocking veteran Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley as a "farmer from Iowa who never went to law school" who would become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee if the GOP wins control of the Senate in this fall’s midterm elections.

The conservative political action committee America Rising released the video Tuesday, and it whipped up a media frenzy that reverberated throughout the Hawkeye state.

Veteran Iowa political columnist David Yepsen told The Des Moines Register, “This is bad for Braley, and it will hurt him. Chuck Grassley is a political icon.”

Yepsen said Iowans across the state will be put off by the comments, made by a trial lawyer speaking to a roomful of supporters.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have law degrees. It comes off as elitist,” Yepsen said.

“The biggest effect will be to energize Republicans,” he said. “This will be a bloody shirt that they wave in front of GOP audiences from here on out.”

Braley had held a comfortable double-digit lead over a crowded field of little-known GOP contenders for the Senate seat left by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, according to a Quinnipiac poll released March 13.

The conservative group Priorities for Iowa released a statement accusing the fourth-term congressman of announcing his senatorial intentions to serve out-of-state interests, and noting that the video’s release came at the same time an Iowa farmer was being honored at the U.S. Capitol, the Register reports.

“Bruce Braley is putting his values, and this Senate seat, up for sale,” said Sara Craig, director of Priorities for Iowa.

“Maybe Bruce Braley doesn’t realize that today we celebrate ‘just an Iowa farmer’ Norman Borlaug’s statue unveiling in the United States Capitol. Makes you wonder what he could have achieved if he’d gone to law school.”

The gaffe also comes as one of Braley’s prospective Republican opponents, Joni Ernst, garnered attention with an eye-opening political ad in which she proudly asserted, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So, when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.”

Ernst’s campaign was given a further boost by receiving an endorsement from Sarah Palin on Wednesday, Politico reports.

Braley has said he’s apologized to Grassley in person for his comments.

"I apologize to Sen. Grassley and anyone I may have offended," he also said in a press statement issued by his campaign.

But the ill-chosen words pack a double whammy for the Democrat.

The Washington Post notes that while less than 5 percent of Iowa residents are farmers, the state ranks in the top three in the number of farms and agricultural, crop and livestock sales.

The Post also pointed out that Grassley, who has served in the Senate since 1981, is the most popular politician in the state, garnering a robust 62 percent approval rating in a 2013 Des Moines Register poll.

Republican Gov. Terry Branstad also used the Borlaug statue's unveiling to unleash a spirited verbal assault on Braley on Wednesday, saying his remarks would be “very damaging” to his campaign, the Register reports.

“I think it is awful. I think it is terrible that somebody running for office in Iowa would go to Texas to raise money from trial lawyers and then put down our senior senator and the farmers of the state of Iowa,” Branstad said.

“I think that this is something that Iowans will not forget. Agriculture is something that is important to this state, and we were there in the nation’s Capitol to honor one of the greatest humanitarians of all time, who was a farmer, who became a great agriculture researcher and saved a billion people. And it is just unthinkable.”

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