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Lange Wins Iowa Press Debate, Braley Starts to Unravel

5:11 AM ET, 10/11/2010

Congressman Bruce Braley’s re-election effort is in serious trouble. With only three weeks until people go to the polls, Braley is acting like a radical challenger instead of an incumbent with a lead.

Braley’s strange behavior was on display during this weekend’s episode of Iowa Press on IPTV. While Braley and Lange’s appearance on the show wasn’t an actual debate, it was our first opportunity to see the two candidates square off against each other. Surprisingly, it was Lange who looked calm, cool and collected.

Braley, on the other hand, used the setting to try to connect his opponent to the American Future Fund (AFF), an Iowa based organization that is running ads critical of Braley’s record in congress.

Lange compared the AFF ads to the all of the out-of-state money Braley has accepted for his campaign. Lange basically described both as outside interests in the race. Lange also claimed that 91% of Braley’s contributions have come from out-of-state interests. Braley called Lange a liar.

Braley lamented about what he called, “Ben’s secret donors.” Braley seemed frazzled by the nearly $1 million that AFF is spending on radio, television, and direct mail in the district.

Lange repeatedly told Braley, as well as the panel of reporters, that he has no connection with the AFF. He also correctly stated that it’s against the law to coordinate in any way with any such group. So, he legally can’t tell them to stop advertising on his behalf.

Braley is clearly obsessed with the American Future Fund. One needs only to watch the YouTube video his aides shot of him going to the mailing address of the organization, which turned out to be a UPS store near the Iowa Democratic Party’s headquarters in Des Moines.

Braley also tried to hijack the press gaggle after the taping of the show by sending in a man wearing a suit and tie with a bunch of a balloons and an oversized check to Lange from the American Future Fund that was signed by Karl Rove. This is the type of campaigning that no incumbent member of congress should ever do, let alone one of the Vice Chairs of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

If Braley could have spent the entire 30 minutes of Iowa Press talking about the American Future Fund, he would have. When the conversation turned to the critical issues in the race, it became clear that Braley is badly out of step with his eastern Iowa constituents.

Braley proved himself to be an unabashed liberal. During the show, he defended his support of Obamacare, he called the $787 billion in stimulus spending an “enormous success,” and he stood by his support of cap and trade legislation.

He also declared the cash for clunkers program that he sponsored “one of the most wildly successful stimulus programs in U.S. history.” When asked if he would vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker should Democrats maintain control, Braley launched into a long defense of the current Speaker of the House. However, the one thing he said that should scare is constituents the most was how his description of the controversial healthcare reform bill.

When asked if there was anything in the healthcare bill that he would vote to repeal, Braley said, “Is the bill we passed perfect? No. But it is a good start in making sure that people have access to quality, affordable healthcare.” I think the voters deserve to know what else Braley has in store for them if Obamacare is only a “good start.”

Lange has been considered to be a big underdog since announcing his campaign a year ago. Heading in to the joint appearance on Iowa Press, many expected Braley, a successful trail attorney, to wipe the floor with Lange, a young attorney from the small town of Independence, Iowa. To the surprise of many, Lange won the debate. This was an impressive feat because Lange didn’t just have to beat Braley, he also had to contend with Associated Press reporter Mike Glover.

Glover proved to be Braley’s greatest ally during the program. He repeatedly interrupted Lange during his answers. He also made numerous editorial comments after Lange would answer a question.

When Lange described his opposition to Braley’s Cash for Clunkers program and the government’s intervention in General Motors and Chrysler, Glover quipped, “So, if the auto industry goes, oh what the heck.”

Glover was involved in a similar exchange concerning ethanol subsidies. Lange supports current tax credits for ethanol blenders, but wants to get the industry to a place where it doesn’t need those incentives to compete with the oil companies. Lange’s answer didn’t suit Glover who added, “So, if we lose the ethanol industry, what the heck,” after Lange’s answer.

Glover’s biased behavior shouldn’t be tolerated on a program like Iowa Press. It’s one thing to be equally hard on both candidates (which Glover wasn’t), but it’s another thing to ridicule and make snide remarks after someone answers a question.

If Glover had any journalistic integrity, maybe he could have asked Braley why he thinks the ads that the American Future Fund is running are misleading. The group’s ads that say that Braley supports Pelosi, and voted for Obamacare, cap and trade, stimulus spending, and bailouts. Braley stood by all of his votes and Pelosi during the program.

Braley shouldn’t be upset that a group is calling him out on the things that he actually supported and voted for. If he doesn’t like it, maybe he should have voted differently.

If Braley loses on November 2nd, it’s not because of a group like the American Future Fund. He will have lost because he is supporting things that that his constituents vehemently oppose. Maybe he will realize that on November 3rd.

Click here to read the transcript or to view the IPTV debate.

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