The notion that Iowa's fiercely contested Senate race could come down to four chickens always seemed like a stretch.
But Republican Joni Ernst has seized on reports of Democrat Bruce Braley's dispute with a neighbor over the neighbors' chickens, which Braley and his wife complained were wandering onto the yard at their Holiday Lake, Iowa vacation home. Carolyn Braley lodged a complaint with the neighborhood's homeowners association, which declined to take action against the neighbor. That prompted Bruce Braley to contact the homeowners association's lawyer to complain about the association's "lack of action."
When the episode came to light, it reinforced the gaffe-prone candidate's existing image problem. Still, it seemed inconsequential in a race that featured, on the one hand, a progressive populist in the tradition of retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin and, on the other, a rabidly right-wing Republican who has flirted with calling for President Obama's impeachment and traffics in loony far-right conspiracy theories (Agenda 21!).
But there was Ernst, at a debate this week, trying to put the chicken issue front and center.
"Congressman, you threatened to sue a neighbor over chickens that came onto your property," Ernst asserted. "You're talking about bipartisanship — how do we expect as Iowans that you will work across the aisle when you can't walk across your yard?"
Actually, Braley never threatened to sue anybody, as PolitiFact notes in a new post rating Ernst's claim "false." (Not that it really matters, because electing an ultraconservative who peddles World Net Daily-type conspiracy theories to a six-year term in the U.S. Senate seems like a silly thing to do even if Braley sued a lady over some chickens???)
PolitiFact points out that in his emails with the homeowners association's lawyer, Braley never threatened to file a lawsuit.
"In fact, they say the opposite," PolitiFact determines. "The lawyer, Thomas Lacina, writes "The implication from Mr. Braley was that he wants to avoid a 'litigious situation.'"
PolitiFact's smackdown of Ernst's claim comes shortly after another GOP Senate candidate hoping to win a Democratic seat, Arkansas' Tom Cotton, was caught in a blatant whopper of his own. A recent Cotton ad falsely asserted that President Obama “hijacked the farm bill, turned it into a food stamp bill." In reality, food stamps have been funded through the farm bill since 1973, four years before Cotton was born.