Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D., Iowa) aloof behavior at the Iowa State Fair reinforced the perception that he is out of touch with Iowa voters, creating a serious vulnerability for him this fall, National Journal reports.
Braley, the Democratic candidate for Iowa’s open Senate seat, reportedly shunned fairgoers as he walked with a wall of staffers around him:
The state fair, an annual staple of Iowa cultural and political life, seemed like the perfect place to get in one-on-one time with voters and share that personal story—but Braley spent little time interacting with fairgoers. He spoke at The Des Moines Register soapbox on a rainy Thursday morning, then walked through the fair and flipped pork burgers at the all-important pork producers' tent. During most of that time, he had such a large entourage of purple Braley-shirt-wearing staffers and volunteers around him it was tough to find the candidate.
The staffers served as a buffer between Braley and the handful of GOP trackers and hecklers who trailed him—one man dressed as a chicken, another as a pig—but ultimately ended up keeping away regular people as well. It seemed to annoy fairgoers more than endear him to them.
"Gimme a break," one man said as he tried to pass by Braley and the group in the Varied Industries Building.
Braley’s manner at the fair contrasted sharply with Republican candidate Joni Ernst:
By contrast, Ernst, who attended the fair the following day, seemed to relish her one-on-one time with voters. Walking through the fair with GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, she stopped seemingly every few feet to say hi to—and often hug—fairgoers and potential supporters.
"Look at the statements he has made," Ernst told reporters of Braley. "He set the stage himself. I don't need to elaborate much on how out of touch he is, he has done that for Iowa."
Republicans began to paint Braley as elitist when he called Grassley, a popular figure in the farmer-heavy state, a "farmer from Iowa who never went to law school" at a January fundraiser. His poll numbers have continued to drop as more evidence emerges of what the GOP calls his disconnect from Iowa voters.
The Iowa Senate race is now a virtual tie, according to the Real Clear Politics poll average.