Incumbent Republican Rep. Rod Blum is leading against Democratic challenger Monica Vernon in Iowa’s 1st District, the Associated Press projects.
Blum led Vernon 54 percent to 46 percent with 87 percent of precincts reporting.
Democrats had hoped winning two competitive seats in Iowa would help make a dent in their 30-seat deficit in the House. Iowa’s 3rd District seat also went Republican.
Blum, a House Freedom Caucus member, represents a district President Barack Obama twice won by double digits, which made him one of the most vulnerable incumbents this year.
But putting away Blum’s seat proved harder than Democrats expected, in part because of Donald Trump’s support in the 90 percent white district. Blum slid in vulnerability on Roll Call’s top 10 list from second to ninth place last month, presenting the most dramatic shift in just one month.
Hillary Clinton’s super PAC, Priorities USA, came into the district late last month with its only House ad of the cycle to give Democrats a boost.
In 2014, the Iowa software business owner, who had not previously held elective office, won a tight contest by capturing more than 51 percent of the vote in the general election.
But he snubbed John A. Boehner after the speaker came to the district to campaign for him during that election. That led to a tenuous relationship with the National Republican Congressional Committee, which didn’t include him among the initial members of the Patriot Program, designed to help vulnerable incumbents.
Blum said in June that his relationship with the NRCC and leadership had improved with Boehner’s exit. Speaker Paul D. Ryan campaigned with the GOP freshman last week.
Vernon had played up Blum’s tea party support and Freedom Caucus membership to paint him as an instrument of obstructionism in Congress.
But Blum disagreed that his views don’t fit his district.
“I don’t think it’s too conservative to want to balance the budget. Most of the people in my district want us to balance the budget,” Blum said in a June interview with Roll Call.
“I don’t think it’s too conservative to want to stop deficit spending. Most of my district wants to stop deficit spending,” the one-term congressman said. “I don’t think it’s too conservative to want to secure our southern border. Most folks in Eastern Iowa want our borders secure,” Blum said.
Iowa’s 1st District covers the northeast part of the state and includes Dubuque, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. Scattered among Mississippi River counties and farmland, those midsize cities carry manufacturing technology interests that sustain key regional employers.