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Braley hardly a shoo-in

May 6, 2013 - Mike Donahey
Some of my Democrat friends are feeling pretty confident — if not smug — about Democrat Bruce Braley’s chances to be elected senator in 2014.

That is because U.S. Congressman Steve King decided to pass on the opportunity to oppose Braley in seeking the senate seat currently held by Sen. Tom Harkin, who announced his retirement earlier this year. The nomination would have been King’s for the taking, as no other Republican would have challenged him.

“A Senate race takes me out of urgent battles in Congress that can’t wait until 2015,” announced King on his Facebook page late Friday night. King had held the “presumptive Republican nominee” label since Harkin’s announcement. Previously, Congressman Tom Latham, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced they were not interested in opposing Braley for a variety of reasons. That means a much lesser known Republican will eventually step up.

And if my Democrat friends are feeling Braley is a shoo-in, they better “wake up and smell the coffee,” as the late Ann Landers used to say. Just ask former U.S. Senator Dick Clark and high profile Democrat attorney Roxanne Conlin.

Clark, in his 1978 re-election bid, lost to relatively unknown Roger Jepsen, a Davenport Republican who effectively utilized the then burgeoning anti-abortion sentiment, while successfully attacking Clark’s voting record. Clark took the high road on the abortion debate and that, coupled with an off-year election which typically favors the party not holding the White House, spelled defeat.

Conlin, in her 1982 bid to become the state’s first woman governor, was considered a favorite to beat Terry Branstad. Branstad was Gov. Bob Ray’s lieutenant governor, but still an underdog to the well-financed, organized, and articulate Conlin. Conlin was leading in the polls until early July, when it was announced she and her developer husband had legally not paid any federal income tax.

With that, the energy from her campaign escaped faster than air from a tire which had just rolled over a red-hot charcoal briquette. Bruce Braley will run an aggressive campaign, but it is his workers, volunteers and Democrats who need to work like the family farm is on the line and not take anything for granted.

The Republican challenger will be well-financed and aggressively attack Braley's voting record. And, like 1978, and more recently 2010, 2014 will be an off-year election which will favor the Republicans.



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