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Senate Democrats' campaign arm is hitting the airwaves in the Iowa Senate race beginning Tuesday with a sizeable advertising buy that comes as polls show a close contest between state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Rep. Bruce Braley (D).

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee commercial charges that's Ernst's ideas "are just too extreme for Iowa." It says she wants to privatize Social Security.

The committee has reserved more than $500,000 in broadcast air time over the next two weeks in four media markets, according to public records. The buy comes as a pair of recent polls from NBC News/Marist and Quinnipiac University have shown a close race.

"Joni will protect social security for seniors like her parents, and ensure it's there for generations to come, like her daughters and grandchildren," responded Ernst spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel in a statement.

NBC News/Marist, the most recent poll taken, showed Braley and Ernst deadlocked at 43 percent.

Iowa is increasingly shaping up as a key battleground in the fight for the Senate majority. Republicans need to pick up six seats to win control of the chamber. - Washington Post, 7/22/14

Here's a little more info:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst talks to a television reporter after casting her vote in Iowa’s Republican primary in Red Oak, Iowa, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Five Republicans are competing for the GOP Senate nomination and a chance to face Democrat Bruce Braley, who is running unopposed. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
The DSCC has reserved $188,000 in Des Moines, $145,000 in Davenport, $109,000 in Cedar Rapids and $72,000 in Sioux City between July 22 and August 4. It’s all broadcast, according to a source tracking the air war.

This a sizable early buy for the national party to make mid-summer, coming in the wake of an NBC News/Marist poll last week that showed the race tied at 43 percent. The Cook Political Report and Rothenberg Political Report also recently moved the contest from “Lean Democrat” to “Toss Up.”

The DSCC has already run ads this cycle in Montana and Arkansas.

Rep. Bruce Braley, the Democratic nominee, has spent the better part of the last month hammering away on the Social Security issue.

Meanwhile, Republicans and conservative outside groups — including American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity — have been up with big buys hitting Braley.
The DSCC commercial starts and finishes with a clip of Ernst saying: “People are going to know who Joni Ernst and what I stand for.”

The aggressive, early ad by by the DSCC is reflection of Ernst’s post-primary bounce, even though she remains largely undefined. In the NBC/Marist poll, 38 percent of registered voters viewed her favorably, 33 percent viewed her unfavorably, and 28 percent did not know enough to offer an opinion. - Politico, 7/21/14

Hitting Ernst on Social Security is a smart tactic because in mid term elections, Seniors always vote.  Braley has been very good on Social Security and opposes the chained CPI.  He needs to keep highlighting Ernst's extremist record because this is turning out to be one competitive race:

UNITED STATES - APRIL 01: Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa., listens to testimony by Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in Rayburn Building titled "The GM Ignition Switch Recall: Why Did It Take So Long?" Thirteen people died before 2.6 million vehicles were recalled due to a faulty ignition switch. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
The congressman pushed back at attacks on his background as a trial lawyer, saying, “I spent my life learning how to listen to people’s problems, how to negotiate on their behalf, how to draft documents to try to solve problems, and how to work with people.” He also talked up his agricultural experience—“My family has been farming in Iowa since 1847; Iowa became a state in 1846”—and reminisced about a youth spent working on farms and at grain elevators.

Democrats were more pointed in its statements about Ernst. One Democratic operative said that everything the Republican’s campaign has done so far has been “an effort to attack Braley personally,” while Braley's campaign has been focused on issue differences. The Democrat contrasted Ernst’s desire to privatize Social Security, abolish a federal minimum wage, and support for fetal personhood to Braley’s desire to preserve Social Security, raise the minimum wage, and protect a woman’s right to choose.

These attacks are likely to continue—on both sides. Braley’s campaign appears to embody an ethos his top strategist, Jeff Link, refers to as “the Harkin rule.” Named after Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who is retiring in January, the rule is to “always attack and never defend.” Republicans in the state, many of whom cut their teeth under longtime Iowa governor and notoriously relentless campaigner Terry Branstad, aren’t gun shy, either.

The campaign is likely to be close. Iowa is a perennial swing state, and polls show the race in a virtual tie. And while Braley has what is universally acknowledged to be a superior field operation, Ernst benefits from having Branstad, who is expected to win easily, at the top of the ticket.

With so much at stake and such a small margin for error, expect plenty more—occasionally ridiculous—attacks and counterattacks. - The Daily Beast, 7/22/14

Ernst has been able to win her primary thanks to crazy ads like her castrating hogs:

The ad helped propel Ernst out of a crowded GOP primary field, leaving her now neck and neck with Democrat Bruce Braley for the general. But Ernst apparently didn’t know she had biographical gold on her resume, according to GOP political communications strategist Todd Harris, mastermind of the memorable ad.

Harris told the backstory of the ad at a Politico Campaign Pro event in Washington Monday.

You see, Harris was out visiting Ernst in Iowa, about a year ago, working on a stump speech for her. To do so, he needed to know more about her upbringing.

“And she said, ‘Oh, you know, it was very normal,’” said Harris, recalling Ernst talking about farming, canning food and walking beans.

“I’m from California, I have no idea what that means,” he said of the beans comment, adding he now knows “It has to do with soybeans."

Ernst continued.

“And you know, we’d feed the hogs, castrate the hogs,” he remembered her saying. “And she just kept going and [I] was like, ‘Wait? What?’”

Ernst didn’t think much of it, Harris said, but he made a note and then, a day later, came up with the line about cutting pork.

“We had a debate coming up so we thought let’s use this in the debate and see if it works and it did,” Harris recalled. “And so I just filed it away until it was time to make TV.”

And TV he did make. The candidate spent just $9,000 on the original television spot, but online it has received nearly 600,000 YouTube views, making the race to replace the retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, one to watch. The Washington Post said the advertisement was what transformed the race, while our own Dave Catanese questioned, “Can Joni Ernst Be Stopped?” - U.S. News, 7/21/14

And the GOP big wigs really want Ernst to win:

Sen. Marco Rubio didn't just lend a hand to Joni Ernst in the late-spring Iowa GOP Senate primary – he went "whole hog," according to new campaign finance data detailing the extent of his spending.

The freshman Republican from Florida devoted $243,729 – nearly a quarter of a million dollars – from his political action committee to help propel Ernst in the final weeks of her contested primary.

Rubio not only doled out cash for television ads, as previously reported, he also provided funds for Ernst's online advertisements on Google and AOL, as well as for direct mailers and robocalls. His PAC – Reclaim America – even funded a $22,000 poll for Ernst's campaign at the end of May.

On top of all that, the PAC wrote a $10,000 check directly to the Ernst campaign.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, got on board with Ernst after she clinched the primary, sending her a $5,000 check from his Jobs Growth & Freedom Fund PAC at the end of June.

Additionally, the swaggering Texan conducted more than a third of his PAC's total June spending in the Hawkeye State, according to a U.S. News analysis.

Of the $93,413 spent by his PAC, $34,424 went into Iowa, including donations to Ernst, congressional candidate Rod Blum and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. Its largest expenditure of the month – $20,424 – went to a Brooklyn, Iowa, consulting firm for fundraising calls. - U.S. News, 7/22/14

And right wing groups and Republicans are going to use anything they can to attack Braley.  Shout to David Wiegel for disproving this:

A click sends us to an article headlined "Braley attended three fundraisers on day of missed veterans affairs hearing." Notice the slight difference. The campaign committee implies that Braley went to fundraisers instead of the hearing. The story does not. As Jennifer Jacobs tells it:

At 10 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2012, the committee held a hearing on a backlog of disability claims and reports of problems with mental health care and stewardship of VA funding, congressional records show. The roll call shows Braley didn't attend. Instead, he went to an Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting that began at 9:36 a.m., records show.

Records from the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation show that on the same day, Braley had three fundraisers on his schedule for his re-election to the U.S. House.

He attended all three, campaign aides confirmed to The Des Moines Register.

The one from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. was a $2,500 breakfast at Johnny's Half Shell, which serves seafood fresh from the Chesapeake Bay and has a view of the Capitol dome.

At noon, Braley went to the D.C. law firm of DLA Piper for a $1,000 per person fundraiser.

In other words, Braley went to a fundraiser that ended before the missed hearing, and to a fundraiser that started two hours after the hearing kicked off. There's no defending Braley on the larger point, which is that he missed most VA hearings in 2011 and 2012.

But he didn't actually ditch the VA hearing for a fundraiser. He was at some other hearing, which appeared to be more important. What, on Sept. 20, 2012, could have been more important?

Oh, man.

Braley missed a Sept. 20 hearing about something that would become a scandal because he opted for a hearing about a contemporary scandal. - Slate, 7/22/14

This race is far from over and we can't allow the GOP to dupe voters into voting for Ernst.  Click here to donate and get involved with Braley's campaign:

Originally posted to pdc on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 07:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by Social Security Defenders and The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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