Former Congressman Bruce Braley has reportedly moved to Denver, Colorado to join a top law firm based there. The news was reported Thursday evening, and marks the final chapter of the fallout from last year’s U.S. Senate race between him and Joni Ernst.
It’s not completely uncommon for losing candidates to move away from the place they ran for office. I’ve seen multiple younger people relocate from their home town after a defeat. Still, it’s a little odd to witness someone of Braley’s stature to peace out so soon. Running for office is obviously an extremely public affair that puts every aspect of your life and personality under public scrutiny, and it can be very tough to face your neighbors and community following a loss.
It would have been near impossible for Braley to ever re-enter Iowa politics. Many insiders and political professionals still like Braley as a person, and view part of his downfall as extremely bad luck from the farmer video. His former staff still say they enjoyed working for him in a personal sense. But man, talk to regular Democratic voters in Iowa and you’ll find an outright hatred for the man whose campaign went so wrong. His run was universally panned by national political commentators, with several calling him “the worst candidate of 2014.” His former campaign manager, Sarah Benzing, already moved back to Ohio in January.
It’s truly incredible how dramatic a rise and fall Braley experienced. He narrowly won the 2006 Democratic primary for the First District by 518 votes to first enter the political scene. Just this time last year he was seen as Iowa Democrats’ great new leader, the selected heir to Tom Harkin’s legacy. Then it all went to shit.
His electoral disaster damaged Iowa Democrats up and down the ticket. With no top statewide candidate that Democrats felt inspired by, many simply didn’t turn out. I personally lost faith in him in September after seeing this CNN story that interviewed Braley about that stupid neighbor chicken issue. In it Braley was still incredibly defensive and put the blame back on his neighbor, months after the chicken story first got its legs. It wasn’t the right message to use – he should have just laughed it off or moved on – and threatened to give the story more life. At that point it was clear it wasn’t just bad luck that afflicted Braley.
This also seems like as good of time as any to mention what I consider to be the most under-reported detail of the entire 2014 cycle: just how did Republicans get ahold of that infamous video of Braley criticizing Chuck Grassley? Many Democrats, including Tom Harkin, figured for most of the campaign that an undercover Republican operative, perhaps with some sort of pin-hole hidden camera, shot it. Amazingly, it turns out Republicans obtained it through much simpler means: searching on YouTube. Supposedly a Braley-backing attendee at the trial attorneys’ fundraiser recorded Braley’s speech and posted it online (which would explain why the video is up so close – it would’ve been difficult for even a GOP spy to get that good a shot). Later a Republican staffer discovered it, cut out the damaging line, and the rest is history. So it’s a good thing major trial attorney firms are still giving Braley a nice job – they kind of owe him.
by Pat Rynard