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When we sit down and think about candidates for Blue America, we are very careful. If one of us senses that someone isn’t a committed progressive, or that someone smells like they might sell out to big money interests once they get to D.C., like so many politicians from both parties do, they are off the list.

Bruce Braley is a complete natural for us. What might throw some people isn’t anything Bruce says — he’s right on on every single issue — but the fact that the DCCC seems to be targeting his race. In fact, 2 weeks ago they got him the coveted national radio slot to respond to Bush’s Saturday address.

No need to worry. The mountain came to Bruce, and I’m going to explain why.

First some basic facts about Iowa’s first congressional district, where the Republican incumbent, Jim Nussle, is making a pointless bid to run for governor. It’s a moderate district that both Gore and Kerry won. In fact, 4 years of George Bush made IA-01 quite a bit more Democratic in the 2004 election than it had been in 2000.

That, of course, is why the DCCC is so excited about this open seat, although wait a minute and I’ll explain about why they’re also excited about Bruce. The district includes most of northeast Iowa, including Dubuque, Davenport/Bettendorf and Waterloo.

To better understand the political make-up of the district, look at 2 other Iowa congressmen for a moment.  Jim Leach of Iowa is a relatively moderate Republican (though quite a bit to the right of the American mainstream). In fact, Leach has the third least reactionary voting record of any Republican in the House, with a Progressive Punch score of 28.65.

The far western end of Iowa sends Steve King to Congress and, with a score of 2.35, he’s been far more of a right-wing extremist than even Tom DeLay, one of the 20 most fanatical in the whole Congress. In between these two Iowa Republicans sat Jim Nussle. When he ran for office, Nussle tried painting himself as another Leach. When it came to voting, he’s far closer to King (his score is 7.34– out of 100!) and he has been further to the right than even nut cases like Tom Tancredo (KKK-CO) and John Hostettler (R-IN). The DMI score-card, which measures how helpful a congressman’s votes are on middle class issues, rates Nussle a big fat zero (and gives him an F).

Now, the candidate the Republicans have come up with to replace him, multimillionaire restaurateur Michael Whalen, is far to the right of even Nussle. Although he’ll be a dependable Bush/corporate rubber stamp on immigration "policy"– let in all the undocumented laborers possible to hold wages down and keep unions weak– Whalen’s right wing agenda is most dangerous to Iowans when it comes to his mania for privatizing (abolishing) Social Security.

Whalen’s right wing jihad against Social Security may be good news for Bruce Braley since Iowa’s first congressional district has one of the highest percentages of senior citizens in the U.S. (14.5% v 12.4%).

And although knee-jerk right wing responses to women’s right to choice and equality for gay people won’t hurt him too badly among some Iowans, his past violent opposition to ethanol– calling it a "boondoggle"– isn’t what Iowans, or most Americans, want to hear from someone running for congress.

Interestingly, when asked to name his idea of a role model for himself if he ever makes it to the House, Whalen picked Mike Pence (R-IN), a man with the 15th most reactionary voting record in Congress who has a perfect voting record of always under all circumstances ignoring his constituents’ needs to support Big Business’ demands. If Whalen gets into Congress and he models himself on Pence, Iowa farmers, Iowa small businessmen, Iowa working men and women, Iowa’s middle class, Iowa’s women, Iowa’s children will all be worse off.

Meanwhile Bush Regime deadenders like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, who most GOP candidates have begged to stay away from their districts, have been invited into eastern Iowa by Whalen.

Bruce Braley has been campaigning with mainstream Democrats like John Edwards, Mark Warner, Evan Bayh and Iowa’s popular retiring governor, Tom Vilsack.  Quite a difference.

Bruce, a 48 year old attorney, grew up in a small Iowa town, and both of his parents grew up on farms during the Depression.

"When people had problems," he told me last week, "they didn’t ask you what party you belonged to, they asked what they could do to help. That attitude has been missing in Congress and people are looking for strong independent voices and not just for candidates focusing on their next election campaign."

Bruce is a common sense problem solver with Main Street values, not an ideologue and not a Wall Street values kind of guy like his opponent.

"I’m not running for Congress so I can take safe, comfortable positions that won’t change things for the better and improve the lives of people in my district and in this country."

And if you don’t know much about Iowa, you might think Bruce’s positions on issues are too progressive. But that takes us back to how he convinced the DCCC to get behind his campaign.

I mean, Rahm Emanuel does not encourage — I’m being polite — Democratic challengers to get behind Jack Murtha’s position on ending the occupation of Iraq. And yet, Bruce doesn’t mince words:

"It is time for President Bush to announce a timeline for the responsible withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. While it is important to provide the means for Iraqi self-government, it is time to begin bringing our troops home."

Not the D-Trip’s standard position.

And when it comes to healthcare… well, it’s a position made for working and middle class Americans, not for politicians looking for bribes contributions from Big Pharma and HMOs. Look though Democratic challengers’ websites and tell me how many you find that even mention a woman’s right to choice. Or just believe me– almost none. Now look at Bruce’s issue page on his site.

"I support the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade and believe it is settled law."

Powerful– and no wiggle room to compromise with superstitious, brainwashed primitives. That’s why Bruce is our kind of candidate? But Rahm’s? So I asked Bruce about it:

"I wouldn’t change who I am to run for office. I am running to be a strong voice for change and to speak out for people who don’t have a voice in Washington. I met with Rahm several times and I convinced him that my positions are the mainstream positions in this district. he listened and he understood. Even Republicans like Chuck Grassley and Jim Leach have come out for bringing the troops home. Iowa has a disproportionately large number of citizens in the National Guard. And they’re not young kids; these are people with careers and families. People here are opposed to this occupation."

I’m leaving out one issue. It’s the issue that Bruce spoke about that impressed me most. His understanding of health care affordability is phenomenal. I haven’t heard anyone speak about it as well since Doctor Howard Dean. You can read about on Bruce’s website or, better yet, you can join in our live discussion with Bruce today in the comments. (Hint: Bush’ rip off health care bill is 415 pages. Unlike most congressmen, Bruce read it — and understands it…and, more important, knows how to cure it.)

Bruce is the newest addition to the Blue America Communities ACT BLUE Page. Let’s make sure he feels some love.

We have some great contributions as little incentive today. If you haven’t heard of Matthew Grimm and The Red Smear, you’re missing a great band, sort of a cross between the Clash and Wilco. They’re Iowa’s best rock’n'roll band — intense, melodic and political — and Matthew has signed a dozen CDs of his new album, DAWN’S EARLY APOCALYPSE, for today. If you want one, be one of the first 12 people to add one cent to a donation to Bruce’s campaign. Maybe you’re not a rocker? Peter Clothier is a neighbor of mine. He is also a blogger and an author. His brand new book, THE REAL BUSH DIARIES, is based on his blog and he’s signed a dozen copies. If you’d like one, be one of the first dozen to add two cents to your contribution to Bruce.

[As Bruce Braley was nice enough to take a little time from his campaigning to be here and chat with us today, please keep your comments on topic in this thread.  Comments pertaining to other issues can be discussed in the prior thread.  Much appreciated!  -- CHS]