Iowa Republican Rep. Rod Blum's re-election effort is not getting much support from his party. But that's just fine with him.
The freshman Republican alienated himself from some of his GOP colleagues after he cast his first vote in Congress against John A. Boehner's speakership — despite getting Boehner's support in his 2014 bid for Iowa's 1st District. And while Blum admits his vote has hurt his relationship with groups such as the National Republican Congressional Committee, he says there are other outlets he can turn to for support.
The vote has, “been a problem as far as the NRCC goes,” Blum told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday. "I’ve always believed that when one door closes another one opens. There’s been other groups out there that are interested in a career businessman who represents a Democrat district who won and who’s principled and they’re very interested in what I’ve done so far."
Though Blum holds one of 10 districts rated a Tossup by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call, he's not one of the 21 members the NRCC included in its Patriot program — which provides the House GOP Caucus’ most vulnerable incumbents with fundraising and organizational support. That list includes Blum's fellow Iowa GOP colleague David Young, whose southwest Iowa district is far less Democratic-leaning than Blum’s.
The NRCC declined to comment on why Blum is not a member of the program, only saying that the committee has "multiple rounds" that "will continue to be released throughout the cycle."
But Iowa GOP operatives say it’s no surprise House leadership isn’t rushing to Blum’s aid.
Republicans are on defense this cycle, needing to protect more than a dozen districts in Democratic-leaning territory after the 2014 GOP wave. And Blum’s is one of the most challenging of the bunch to hold onto, as President Barack Obama carried it by a 14-point margin in 2012.
With a daunting map in front of them, some Iowa Republican operatives said Blum’s vote against Boehner provides the NRCC with cover to not waste resources on a race that would be difficult to win.
"He’s an outlier; he’s an anomaly,” one Iowa Republican operative unaffiliated with the race said of Blum’s 2014 victory. “If I'm [Boehner], I'm saying, 'OK, we didn’t really want to put him on the list anyway because he’s so endangered and it’s such a bad district. This gives him an easy way out.' "
Still, Blum is all-in for his re-election.
He’s traveling the district, touting himself as an independent voice in Congress who's introduced legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists . He’s made appearances with the parade of the GOP presidential hopefuls traversing Iowa ahead of next year's caucuses, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ben Carson and Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. And he said he's met with a number of outside groups who he said could make up the difference if the NRCC sits his race out.
"You know, we’ve held lots of discussions," Blum said of other groups who could financially back his re-election bid. "And they’ve been so far very supportive and I think that will translate into support next fall." Blum also loaned his campaign $500,000 in the first quarter of 2015, a sign he's willing to risk some of his personal fortune on his political future. Last cycle, Blum donated and loaned his campaign $220,000.
A crowded Democratic primary could also benefit his re-election hopes, potentially producing a bruised and battered nominee. So far, three Democrats have entered the race, and a handful of others are considering it. In Iowa, if no candidate garners at least 35 percent of the vote, the nomination heads to a rare nominating convention . A convention would drag out the process, and take time and resources away from focusing on Blum.
'They’re going to have to slug it out, and that’s good," Blum said of the Democratic field. "Slug it out!"
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