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Endorsement: Send Bruce Braley to the Senate

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | OCTOBER 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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With the November Senate election approaching, the race is still tight. Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley have battled each other for an edge the last few months. The most recent RealClearPolitics average shows Ernst up by just 2.2 points. Ernst has maintained an edge in the polls, but Braley has been slowly closing the gap.

Following the pattern of elections across the country, the Iowa Senate race has been marked by two distinct caricatures. The Republicans are furiously trying to tie anything and everything the Democrats say to President Obama. On the other side, the Democrats meticulously paint the Republicans as radicals who stand in the way of change.

Throughout these deliberations, Braley seems more focused on the issues that matter directly to Iowans.

In the second debate, he particularly focused on the middle class, promising to increase the minimum wage. While Ernst was focusing on larger national issues, Braley made it clear that he would be a strong advocate for Iowa in the Senate. He has many methods to invigorate the manufacturing sector through tax changes in order to strengthen Iowa’s economy.

Focusing again on Iowa’s middle class, Braley recently wrote a guest opinion in The Daily Iowan about college funding. Because he was a student at Iowa State who relied on federal student loans, he says, he knows how important this issue is to Iowans. He wants the government to continue to provide affordable student loans because every American deserves the opportunity to pursue higher education. Braley hopes to accomplish this by expanding Pell Grants and extending the college tax credit. Ernst claims she supports college affordability, but it’s apparent the issue is not in her wheelhouse. Her ideas include giving students more information on how much loans would cost and increase competition, but these mild proposals don’t speak as loudly as her stated goal to shut down the Department of Education at the federal level. Though there is something to be said for state-directed policy, the fact remains that this move would result in 213,000 students in Iowa losing federal Pell Grants.

Naturally, in Iowa we must consider the candidates’ policies for agriculture and the environment. Ernst does have the support of the Iowa Farm Bureau, and both she and Braley seem to have sound policy proposals, such as their mutual opposition to a reduction in the Renewable Fuel Standard. But on overall environmental policy, Ernst has made her stance clear: She’ll shut down the EPA. In a time of increased awareness and action on issues like climate change, this is a step backwards.
Braley, however, is certainly not the ideal candidate in this political climate.

According to a CNN poll released Monday, 7 in 10 Americans are angry at the direction the country is headed. In addition, 53 percent disapprove of Obama’s performance. It is true that Braley has largely been an advocate of the president’s policies.

Iowa’s economy has also been doing well relative to the nation, which Ernst claims is due to the state’s different approach. Iowa’s unemployment rate is 4.6 percent, almost a full percentage-point drop from a year ago, under Republican Gov. Terry Branstad. The facts show that there may be some validity to Ernst’s economic claims.

Nonetheless, the Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes that while there is no slam-dunk winner here, Braley has the edge for an endorsement. A senator representing Iowa should be more focused on doing just that, representing Iowa. Braley has consistently made it clear that his first focus would be Iowans, not opposing Obama on national issues and closing down federal agencies. We think that should be recognized.


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