Iowa Senate Race is Pretty Farmin’ Serious

Politically, Iowa remains one of our most interesting states. Obviously, its early caucus status lends itself as a power player in presidential politics. But its makeup is also rather vexing and seemingly unpredictable at times, featuring successes for both Republicans and Democrats — and the longevity of its Senators Chuck Grassley (R) and Tom Harkin (D), who’ve been in office since 1981 and 1985, respectively.

With Harkin retiring, there’s a heated race for his vacated seat featuring Rep. Bruce Braley (D) and State Senator Joni Ernst (R). (I actually interacted often with Braley’s staff during his 2006 campaign, while I was working on a State House race in Waterloo for U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh’s All-America PAC.) Braley, however, has found himself trudging through difficult terrain in light of some unfortunate and dismissive agriculture-related gaffes — the latest in a stump speech by a surrogate. Columnist Kathie Obradovich of The Des Moines Register highlighted Braley’s problems, illustrating how some unfortunate word choices here and there can quickly change the nature of a political campaign.

Below, you’ll find an ad where Ernst attempts to capitalize by relaying her hog castrating bona fides, because… pork. (I like the snuggly pig embrace 20 seconds in, personally.)

Oh yes, it’s campaign season, America. Let’s get hog wild! (I’ll show myself out.)

Iowa’s Odd Couple

Chris Cillizza of The Fix had an interesting post today, in which he pontificated upon a reader’s question regarding what state had the most politically opposite Senatorial tandem. He answered "Iowa." Here’s the rub (and having worked in Iowa politics a couple of years ago, I can tell you there’s probably no state as politically charged — and engaged — as the Hawkeye State):

In last week’s first official Fix chat — every Friday at 11 a.m. — we got a question that intrigued us.

"Which state’s senate delegation is the most politically schizophrenic, i.e., has the two senators who are the most diametrically opposed politically?" asked a Fixista from Jackson, Mississippi.

These are the very sort of political debates we L-O-V-E. So, we spent the weekend thinking about the Mutt and Jeffs in the Senate. (Yes, we are aware how dorky that sounds.) Add your own in the comments section below and we’ll update the post to create a full list!

The most obvious Mutt and Jeff tandem is in Iowa where Tom Harkin (D) and Chuck Grassley (R) are on opposite end of the partisan spectrum. In National Journal’s 2008 vote ratings, Grassley ranked as more conservative than 82.3 percent of the Senate while Harkin scored as more liberal than 76.5 percent of his colleagues.

Interestingly, despite their disparate ideological views, both Harkin and Grassley have proven to be unbeatable in the Hawkeye State. Grassley, first elected in 1980, has won his re-election races with 66 percent, 70 percent, 69 percent and 70 percent; Harkin, who claimed his Senate seat six years after Grassley, has had a tougher time of it but has repeatedly beaten back quality foes and was re-elected in 2008 with 63 percent of the vote.