|Braley was just re-elected to a fourth term representing Iowa's first Congressional district. He defeated Ben Lange by a 15-point margin, winning 17 of the 20 counties in the district. In contrast, Braley barely scraped by the same challenger in 2010, thanks in part to conservative third-party candidates who drew more votes than the margin between Braley and Lange.
When the Register's Jacobs asked Braley whether he's thinking about running for governor, he responded, "Not today. I'm glad to be working for the people of Iowa's 1st District." Yet several Democrats, including State Senator Bill Dotzler and former Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rob Tully, indicated that Braley had approached them for feedback on a possible race against Branstad.
On Thursday, he held several meetings with key Democrats and attended a fundraiser for Democratic secretary of state candidate Brad Anderson in Beaverdale.
Braley is scheduled to hold a news conference at the Iowa Capitol on Monday, the first day of the new legislative session, and will meet privately with Democrats in both chambers of the Legislature.
Braley has long been considered heir apparent to U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. But Harkin no longer seems likely to retire in 2014. He is in good health and enjoying his work as head of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Braley would probably be the strongest Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate if Chuck Grassley retires in 2016. At that point, Grassley would be 83 years old. Plenty of U.S. senators have been re-elected well into their 80s, though.
Braley may not want to wait for a shot at an open statewide race, but I would advise him to sit tight and run for Senate in 2016 or governor in 2018. He's only in his mid-50s and has plenty of time to seek higher office later. Like Roxanne Conlin told Jacobs,
"[H]e has to be very careful not to leave a public position at which he is excellent and that lets him do good in the world to run for something he cannot win. And I'm sure that's what he is weighing. ... Nobody wants to see Bruce do any kind of a sacrificial lamb thing."
Private polling in October 2012 suggested Braley had bipartisan appeal within his district.
"Braley led among voters registered with no party affiliation by over 20 percent and even led among men with no party affiliation, a notoriously difficult group for Democrats," Braley's campaign pollster, Diane Feldman, wrote in a postmortem on the 2012 election. The Register obtained a copy of the document from a Braley supporter.
"Braley led by a wide margin among both young voters and seniors, and performed well among rural as well as more urban voters," the memo said.
Leading Ben Lange convincingly in a D+5 Congressional district doesn't say much about Braley's prospects in a statewide race--especially not a race against Branstad. As Republicans love to remind us, Branstad has never lost an election. He is well-known and relatively well-liked. A fresh candidate is probably better positioned than former Governor Chet Culver to take on Branstad, but I think it would be foolish for Braley to give up his Congressional seat to run against an entrenched incumbent.
The case for Braley running for governor is this: Democrats will probably be in the U.S. House minority for quite some time, given effective Republican gerrymandering and ineffective leadership at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, set to continue for another election cycle. Braley may prefer to risk it all on a run for governor than play it safe and be stuck where he is indefinitely.
Any comments about the 2014 governor's race or Braley's ambitions are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Braley's Des Moines press conference was about a bill he's introducing for the second time.
Congressman Bruce Braley is introducing legislation in the U.S. House that would provide federal grants to test for the presence of dangerous levels of radon gas in schools, as well as grants to cover steps schools might take to reduce radon levels. The money would be reserved for high-risk areas - and Iowa is the state where the highest levels of radon exist.
"The thing that I think we, as adults, need to focus on is our kids shouldn't be worried about the level of radon gas in their schools," Braley says. "They should trust us to do the right thing and pass public policies that are going to protect them so they don't have to worry about those issues."
Radon is an odorless, colorless gas - and it's the second-leading cause of lung cancer. [..]
Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, says he hopes to work with Republicans from other states where radon levels are high to advance his proposal in the U.S. House. This is the second straight year Braley has held a news conference at the statehouse in Des Moines on the opening day of the Iowa legislature. Reporters asked Braley if it's because he's planning a run for governor.
"There's nothing to talk about," Braley replied. "...People are tired of politics in this state. It's the beginning of a new day in the legislature. A lot of people are focused on the future and they'll be plenty of time for talking about that later."
Braley's "End Radon in Schools Act" will be the first bill he introduces in the new congress. Braley introduced identical legislation this past September, but it died when the last congress ended the first week of January.
Reducing radon levels in schools is an excellent idea that will go nowhere fast in the House of Representatives.