The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s (DSCC) website says retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa) advocated for Iowa farmers, and Democratic candidate Bruce Braley will do the same, an apparent contradiction with Braley’s comments last week disparaging an Iowa senator for being a farmer and lacking a law degree.
Braley, a four-term congressman, criticized Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley for being a "farmer from Iowa who never went to law school," according to a video posted last Tuesday by GOP opposition research firm America Rising.
The DSCC’s online profile of Iowa says Harkin spent his "career fighting for Iowa families and farmers," adding that Braley "has repeatedly proven himself to be a fighter for middle-class families" and "will continue Senator Harkin’s legacy of always putting Iowa first."
Braley—a trial lawyer—made the comments at a Texas fundraiser for a group of lawyers. He also told the lawyers that he would be "your voice" in the Senate and noted that he had been fighting tort reform for 30 years.
The Des Moines Register reported on Tuesday that Braley’s gaffe led statistics guru Nate Silver to declare Iowa "a more plausible option for Republicans than it was a week ago":
Silver said it's more exception than the rule for a gaffe to swing the balance of a race—history shows it can hinge on how competitive the race was before the gaffe, whether there are other examples of the candidate behaving in the same unflattering manner that then reinforce the gaffe, and whether it mobilizes the opposite party's base.
"Braley's remark might not matter much unto itself," Silver said. "But it's plausible that it could spur activists and the news media into evaluating the Iowa race differently."
Just two days before a video of Braley was widely publicized—it showed Braley making a remark about "a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school"—Silver gave Iowa Democrats a 75 percent chance to win the race. Braley is the lone Democratic candidate.
Braley’s campaign strategists previously told the Register that the candidate knew he was being videotaped at the private fundraiser. "I think [the GOP is] overplaying it like they overplayed Obamacare," said Jeff Link, a senior adviser for Braley's campaign.