Senate looks like friends and neighbors rather than Braley
So the Politico thinks Bruce Braley might jump into the Senate race. Well, no guts no glory, but I'm not convinced. Like I keep saying, all his moves early this year -- his big role in Henry Waxman's overthrow of John Dingell at Energy and Commerce, his subsequent appointment to that same committee, and his Populist Caucus -- are Beltway moves, not home front moves, which tells me The Alliteratively Named One is gearing up for a long House career.
Iowa Republican takes that Register puzzle piece of high name ID plus fundraising ability plus 75 percent likely and is fretting about Mike Blouin instead.
Anyone thought about Vilsack? Not Tom: Christie.
But let's assume the field stays where it is: Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen, with perennial Sal Mohamed thrown in for good measure. How does that shake out?
There aren't a lot of benchmarks for Democratic Senate primaries in Iowa. The last one was in 1992. Jean Lloyd-Jones had a rough rollout that spring. Another legislator had an ethics issue and Jean was doing duty as Ethics Committee chair. In a low-information low-turnout primary all anyone remembered was "Jean Lloyd Jones" and "ethics" in the same sentence, and 40 percent voted for The Other One.
That would be Rosanne Freeburg, who was one of the craziest candidates in recorded memory. No one is accusing either Krause or Fiegen of that. Sal, maybe, but believe me, Sal's a model of decorum compared to Grandma Goofy. I can't remember if Freeburg endorsed Perot before the primary or after, but she ran as an independent and, in an Everyone But Grassley debate, sang "God Bless America" in the place her closing statement should have gone. (That was a running joke between me and one of my Republican friends for years, and is an object lesson in the futility of the empty chair debate scenario.)
So that's not a good example. The better antecedent may be the 1998 governor's primary. Neither Mark McCormick or Tom Vilsack were especially well-known at the time, and it shook out as a friends and neighbors contest. In places where one of the two was well-known, there were landslides. McCormick won big in Carroll and Ames, and narrowly in Polk County, but Vilsack rang up Kim Jong Il size landslides in his Senate district for a slim win.
So who has friends and neighbors where? Krause is based out of Fairfield now, but his legislative district was in north central Iowa. He ran statewide for treasurer, but that was 31 years ago. Blouin took almost as long of a break between campaigns (1978 to 2006) and came in a close second in a three and a half way race. But two terms in Congress and high profile jobs after is more residual name ID than an unsuccessful down-ballot run.
Fiegen is from Cedar County and practices law out of Cedar Rapids. The district where he won in 2000 ran east into Clinton and Scott counties and north into Jones. That's where he knocked off Senator For Life Jack Rife. The district he lost in 2002 (paired with Richard Drake in redistricting) and 2004 (when Drake stepped down and Jim Hahn went from House to Senate) ran south to Muscatine and just barely nicked Johnson. So basically everything between Iowa City-Cedar Rapids to the west and the Quad Cities to the east, and more recent service and candidacy.
Another factor will be competing contests. With no primary challenges to the governor or congressional delegation on the horizon (but remember Ed Fallon started late against Boswell) and Dems still seeking candidates against Latham and King, it looks like the action will jump from Senate down to courthouse. And the Republicans will be staying in their own primary for once to vote for governor. A smart candidate will spend time in places that have high turnout local primaries. So we'll see you here in Johnson County--not a bad drive for either Krause or Fiegen.
One caveat: The 1992 and 1998 races I cite were in the era when the internet was a mere novelty in politics. We had some email lists as far back as 1993 around here but that was cutting edge. Fiegen and Krause are both on the social networks, and one of them could catch on.
Primaries are good things. Obama was a better general election candidate for having faced Hillary. And either Fiegen or Krause will earn some name ID out of a spring campaign. They've already benefited from the earliest start against Grassley in at least 20 years.
Chuck Grassley has shown his true colors more in the last few weeks than he has in the last couple decades. The run against Grassley always used to be the benchmark test for the straight ticket D vote, but his health care stunts have given whatever opponent he gets a bit higher ground to start from.