09/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Might Congressman Bruce Braley Take on Chuck Grassley?

{Originally posted at my blog Senate Guru.}

Two Democratic former state legislators, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause, are working on 2010 Senate bids to face Republican deather Chuck "pull the plug on grandma" Grassley. Despite Grassley's increasingly Looney Tunes demeanor, he does have just over $3.8 million in the bank as of the end of June.

Still, the Des Moines Register ran the following:

I'm told by mostly reliable sources there is a well-known mystery candidate who's about 75 percent ready to join the race. The mystery candidate supposedly has name recognition and money.

The item led Politico's Scorecard blog to speculate:

Rep. Bruce Braley's (D-Iowa) sharp recent criticism of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is bound to get the rumor mills cranking about a possible challenge in 2010.

While there's not a lot of evidence of Grassley's vulnerability -- he hasn't won with less than 60 percent since winning the seat in 1980 -- he's taken some hits recently, most notably for his "pull the plug on Grandma" town hall comments. ...

Braley, of course, would fit that bill [the Des Moines Register's item] as a high-profile congressman with a background that includes heading the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association.

There's a certain Iowa political logic to a Braley challenge as well. When Iowa was sending mostly Republican House members to Congress, one of them invariably challenged the state's junior senator, Democrat Tom Harkin (Harkin himself rose from the House by defeating an incumbent senator in 1984).

Now, three of the five-member House delegation are Democrats and it may be Grassley's turn.

Congressman Bruce Braley isn't raising money like he's preparing for an uphill, statewide campaign. He had just under $350,000 in his campaign account as of the end of June, or about one-eleventh of Grassley's money. Still, with Grassley's high profile role as a roadblock to health care reform, Congressman Braley could probably raise adequate funds. On top of which, as founder of the U.S. House's Populist Caucus, he could probably turn the health care debate and other issue messaging battles against Grassley better than any other Democrat in Iowa.

Keep in mind, Grassley is not unbeatable. A December 2008 Research 2000 poll of a hypothetical IA-Sen match-up between Grassley and Democratic former Governor Tom Vilsack came up a statistical dead heat, with Grassley only narrowly leading 48-44. And that was before Grassley got in bed with the deathers, serving as a top roadblock to health care reform.

Of course, all of this is just speculation; but, if Congressman Braley took the plunge, this could become a top tier battle, especially if Grassley's rhetoric grows more and more outrageous. Definitely worth keeping an eye on. So who wants to jump on that Draft Braley effort?

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