Rep. Bruce Braley can’t seem to catch a break in his race to become Iowa’s next U.S. senator. The Democrat's nearly constant stream of gaffes and embarrassing campaign discoveries provides plenty of material for a roundup of his worst greatest hits.
'Moon River (my Iowa State Fair friend)'
The Iowa State Fair — one of the few state fairs that regularly makes national headlines — entered its final stretch this week, and Braley’s attempt to connect with voters there and gain steam for his campaign fell flat.
Politicians flock to these fairgrounds each year to beef up their support and prove to Iowa citizens that they are one of them. But candidates often make headlines for all the wrong reasons. (It was at this fair in 2011 where Mitt Romney made his infamous “corporations are people” remark.)
In Braley's case, it wasn’t anything he said that stands out, but rather who he did and didn’t say it to. Instead of shaking hands and listening to constituents, Braley seemed to talk only to reporters and his legion of staffers. Braley’s opponent, Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst took a different approach, talking to just about everyone she met and even giving out hugs.
I am the chicken
Braley really stepped in it earlier this year when it was discovered he was trying to intimidate his neighbor over four therapeutic hens. Because one feathered fowl dared to cross Braley’s property line, his wife complained to the neighborhood homeowner's association. After some escalation, Braley Braley called the association's lawyer saying he wanted to "avoid a litigious situation." This was seen as a threat by the Iowa GOP, though Braley's campaign denied it.*
Other neighbors were angered by Braley’s move.
“You really can’t publish what my opinion is,” the association’s secretary, Terry Maxfield, told TheIowaRepublican.com. “I think it was petty. For someone with a higher education like that, it was petty. It was a waste of resources and money.”
The story is somewhat complicated by a recent discovery by Chris Moody of Yahoo News, who learned that the woman who owns the chickens, Pauline Hampton, had filed four previous lawsuits for various slights. She has also filed complaints against other neighbors.
Does that make what Braley did any better? No, but it does provide some context for the woman at the center of the story.
I am the chick
Chickengate wasn’t Braley’s first dance with the birds. Seriously, this guy must really hate chickens by now.
In June, Braley launched an ad against his opponent using footage of a chick. Remember, his opponent is a woman. It wasn’t long before the sexist undertones overshadowed the ad’s message.
Have you forgotten the Veterans' Affairs Committee?
In 2012, Braley claimed that he fights for veterans “every day on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee." However, late last month it was discovered that he actually missed 79 percent of full committee hearings.
Braley served on the committee in the 112th Congress, between 2011 and 2012, just before the scandal at the Veterans Affairs Department really heated up. It became difficult for him to claim that he was fighting for veterans if he wasn’t around to notice the massive corruption at the VA.
She thinks my farmland’s sexy
In March of this year, Braley posted a photo of a farm on his Facebook page. It was a beautiful photo featuring healthy crops and bright blue sky. The only problem was that the farm wasn’t in Iowa, but in England.
Braley’s campaign took the Image down after the error was discovered. Turns out it was the first Image that came up in a Google search for "Iowa farm.” (It’s now No. 13.)
But that wasn’t the end of Braley’s photo troubles. An Image attached to a poll about raising the minimum wage in America was actually of a worker in Mexico.
So God made a trial lawyer
Yes, that’s a parody of a speech, not a song, but I can live with that.
In late March, footage surfaced of Braley telling an audience at a private fundraiser that if he doesn’t win election to the U.S. Senate, “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 Committee.”
I misspell you
In an attempt to prove to people he’s down with the farming community, Braley sent out a press release talking about how he grew up on a farm – except the press release misspelled common farming terms.
The release said Braley “grew up in rural Iowa and worked on Iowa farms, detassling corn and bailing hay.”
Maybe he did perform those farm chores, but it looked really bad to misspell the words “detasseling” and “baling” – especially given his previous slight of farmers.
The talk-down hoedown
In 2011, while speaking on the radio program "Ring of Fire," Braley suggested talking to Iowans “in terms they can understand.”
Republicans seized on the comments to portray Braley as an elitist, but not everyone agreed the comments were a gaffe. Dave Weigel of Slate argued that Braley was simply talking about how politicians are seen as elites.
“Braley talked about the ‘impression that there is an elitism among progressive policies,’ as manifested on the coasts. He didn't say the coasts operated on a higher level; he said that they were seen as elite,” Weigel wrote. “Boil that away, and you're left with Braley saying something just about every candidate for office says.”
Braley’s comment might not be the worst gaffe a politician ever made, but in the context of all the others, it does take on a new light.
Everything is awful
Braley said on the Bill Press radio program that he was happy the House gym remained open during the shutdown but bemoaned the hardships he had to endure because of staff cutbacks.
“There's no towel service, we're doing our own laundry down there,” Braley said.
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Braley threatened to sue his neighbor. The Washington Examiner regrets the error.