(Indianola, IA) State Senator Joni Ernst (R-Red Oak) and Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) wasted no time going on the attack during the first U.S. Senate debate held on the campus of Simpson College moderated by Kevin Cooney of KCCI-TV and Kathie Obradovich of The Des Moines Register.
Braley in his opening statement said, “I will work with anyone who has a good idea that is good for Iowa. I’m a bridge builder, not a bridge burner. This election is a clear choice between moving Iowa forward or following a radical, Tea Party agenda that is going to take us backwards. And on issue after issue, Senator Ernst has stood with the Koch Brothers and their extreme agenda that is wrong for Iowa from repealing the federal minimum wage to privatizing social security to opposing the farm bill and the renewable fuel standard.”
Ernst in her opening statement said, “I believe Washington is taking our country in a wrong direction and for the past eight years Congressman Braley has been there voting with Nancy Pelosi – higher taxes, bigger government, the Wall Street bailout, Obamacare, This is his Washington record. He can’t defend it so he is running the most negative campaign that Iowans have ever seen. Washington has failed, but I believe in the Iowa way. Because Iowans know what is best for Iowa more than politicians in Washington, DC. This matters to me because our working class families deserve better and when Washington is picking those winners and losers it is almost always those Iowa middle class families that lose.”
There was constant clashing throughout the night on exchanges over Obamacare, social security, minimum wage, abortion, taxes, and climate change. The only two subject where there seemed to be some agreement was on U.S. military intervention where Braley said he agreed with criteria that Ernst outlined. Both candidates said wasteful spending within the Federal budget needed to be cut to address the national debt though I’m sure the candidates would differ significantly on where that wasteful spending can be found.
Three moments really stood out for me as bright spots for Ernst. Braley kept mention the Koch Brothers et. al, and Ernst responded saying “you are not running against them, you are running against me.” The other moment was towards the end of the debate in response to a jab by Braley she alluded to a dispute that Braley is having with a neighbor over the chickens. She said, “Congressman, you threatened to sue a neighbor over chickens that came onto your property. You are talking about bipartisanship? How do we expect as Iowans to believe that you will work across the aisle when you can’t walk across the yard?” Also Ernst landed a punch when she brought up Tom Steyer’s donations to Bruce Braley’s campaign which made him look like a complete hypocrite trying to tie Ernst to the Koch brothers.
Braley was unable to mention a single tax proposal except to close corporate tax loopholes, a position that Ernst also holds. He did not define any tax cut he would support. Kevin Cooney had to press him on this in a follow-up question.
Ultimately I doubt this debate will be a game changer as there were not really any gaffes made by either candidate (plenty of statements by Braley I disagree with, but nothing I would consider a gaffe). The time of the debate guaranteed a small viewing audience – 5:0o pm on a Sunday afternoon? Too many people are busy with family activities or football to bother watching a debate. Most watching are likely the ones who have their minds made up. I doubt this debate will register in the next poll, debates rarely do.
I do think we’ll see attack ads and negative campaigning ramp up in a major way after tonight.
Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann released a statement:
For the first time Iowans got the chance to see Bruce Braley attempt to defend his 8-year Washington, D.C. record—supporting higher taxes, imposing more regulations on farmers and restricting individual liberty—on the same stage as Lt. Col. Joni Ernst. The contrast could not be clearer.
Joni Ernst delivered a commanding performance. Ernst reassured Iowans that her experience at the State Capitol to lower taxes and increase good-paying jobs as well as her courage fighting for our country overseas in the Iowa Army National Guard is exactly what’s needed to represent their interests in Washington. D.C.
While Braley has the backing of trial lawyers and California billionaires who oppose ethanol and farmers’ rights against an overbearing federal government, Ernst has the support of hardworking Iowans, and that will make all the difference. Joni Ernst will never forget where she she came from. Braley, a rubber stamp for the Obama administration, forgot before he even left.
Some reaction on social media.
— gretchen reiter (@gretchenreiter) September 29, 2014
When audience actually laughs at efforts to pander, not only is the debate lost, so is candidate credibility. Bad night for Braley #IAdebate
— Brad Dayspring (@BDayspring) September 28, 2014
— Eric (@elane1013) September 29, 2014
— Dane Nealson (@DaneNealson) September 28, 2014
— Nicole Woodroffe (@NicoleWoodroffe) September 28, 2014
I asked for some feedback on Facebook, some reaction:
Red Benghazi Head: “What debate?”
Jacob Hall :
I thought the last five minutes or so were by far the best. Ernst seemed to finally show she was in it to win it and she wanted it. Throughout the debate it seemed she was nonspecific, trying to draw similarities and wishy-washy. But then in those last five minutes she finally went after it. I would’ve preferred she had as much passion about the life issue as she has for her affiliation with the Koch Brothers. I thought her answer on climate change was exceptionally weak. She gave me a much better, more straight-forward answer in that Q&A we did during the primary. Braley continually tried to draw contrast until the end, when he realized he had been knocked in the nose.
I think she’d better be ready now, because he’ll be taking the gloves off after that last five minutes. She hit him and she hit him hard. I was glad she didn’t continue with the “mother, soldier” line… I was sick of hearing that 10 months ago.
Naomi Leinen: “According to my youngest, Braley answered no questions and he was sweaty. I saw a man who was off his game and did not prep very well. Joni did very well. She has my vote!”
Carrie Beth Stoelting: “It’s obvious Joni is the fighter for freedom and farming -not Braley. She stood up for what is important to our state in the debate and she’ll do so in Washington, too. Iowa needs to elect Joni.”
Brent Olesen: “If you can’t walk across your yard to work with your neighbor then how can you work across the aisle in Washington was the BOOM moment of the nite.”