Blum losing some bloom

U.S.+Rep.+Rod+Blum%2C+R-Iowa%2C+talks+to+guests+at+his+ribbon+cutting+ceremony+for+his+new+office+in+Cedar+Rapid+on+Tuesday%2C+March+31%2C+2015.+Blum+has+offices+in+Cedar+Falls%2C+Dubuque%2C+and+now+Cedar+Falls.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FMargaret+Kispert%29
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Blum losing some bloom

U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, talks to guests at his ribbon cutting ceremony for his new office in Cedar Rapid on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Blum has offices in Cedar Falls, Dubuque, and now Cedar Falls. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, talks to guests at his ribbon cutting ceremony for his new office in Cedar Rapid on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Blum has offices in Cedar Falls, Dubuque, and now Cedar Falls. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, talks to guests at his ribbon cutting ceremony for his new office in Cedar Rapid on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Blum has offices in Cedar Falls, Dubuque, and now Cedar Falls. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, talks to guests at his ribbon cutting ceremony for his new office in Cedar Rapid on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Blum has offices in Cedar Falls, Dubuque, and now Cedar Falls. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

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By Quentin Misiag
[email protected]

Rookie Rod Blum, a prominent Dubuque software-company owner, has been able to bait a slate of 2016 presidential hopefuls to stump for him for more than a year.

But don’t count on the Iowa lawmaker’s political star to rise to the level of political kingmaker, or for him to easily slide into re-election, state and national political pundits say.

“I don’t know that he has that pull just yet,” said Christopher Larimer, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa who studies political behavior and state political movements.

Blum holds one of 10 districts rated a tossup by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.

Larimer said Blum will need to hunker down to capture this key part of the electorate: voters who didn’t cast a ballot at all in 2014.

Blum was aided in his first congressional election two years ago by more than a half a dozen drop-ins by rising or well-established Republicans.

Many who stumped for him have since forged their political paths geared toward the White House.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio? Check.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson? He’s stumped for Blum at least twice since the 2014 midterms. 

Former tech executive Carly Fiorina and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul? Check and check.

All but one backer — former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — is still in the 2016 White House race.

Blum has built a political profile as a man who can lure both potential and declared Republican presidential aspirants and one whose liberty-focused attitude has attracted the attention of such national groups as Young Americans for Liberty.

From a dimly lit warehouse in south Cedar Rapids in early October 2014, Blum rubbed shoulders with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and brash New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

At the time, Christie — now an official Republican presidential candidate who has strong personal ties to Iowa — said he returned out of a “promise” he made to Blum.

“When we say we’re going to be some place, we show up,” Christie said that day, turning to Blum, who at the time was trying to beat a fellow Dubuque resident for the 1st Congressional District seat.

Later that day, Blum told The Daily Iowan he had been in contact with representatives with former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to stump for him.

While Romney did indeed return to Iowa to stump for then-U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst, no campaign stump for Blum panned out.

Even before winning election against fellow Dubuque resident Democrat Pat Murphy, Blum’s strategy has been apparent.

The more stump speeches he earned praise from by Republican powerbrokers, the better name recognition he received and more likely voters would be to know who he was when they went to their polling places that November.

Blum graphic

The 1st District — which includes Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls, and Dubuque — tends to vote Democratic; it also has a strong independent and no-party voter presence, according to Iowa Secretary of State Office records.

“You bring them out, man,” was all Carson, a Republican presidential hopeful, had to say about Blum in May.

“He pulls no punches,” Chris Budzisz, a Loras College associate professor of politics and director of the Loras Poll, said of Blum’s political demeanor, which has been marked by his decision to vote against Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, for U.S. House Speaker.

But as Blum steps up efforts to bring in out-of-state support, his rivals are digging deep.

“Shame on Blum for using our tax money to pay to promote his own re-election campaign and spread misinformation about Planned Parenthood,” read a recent email to supporters from 1st District Democratic candidate Monica Vernon.

Added Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee communications director, Matt Thornton:

“Since coming to Washington, Congressman Blum has taken his lead from Steve King and other tea-party extremists, and he has spent more time hobnobbing with fringe candidates like Ben Carson than solving problems for his constituents,” he said in a statement. “It’s no wonder that even the Republican Party is accepting what Iowans already know: that Rod Blum will be a One-Term Wonder.”

From January to the beginning of this month, Blum missed 14 of 493 roll-call votes on Capitol Hill, according to a review of congressional records. At 2.8 percent, that is on par with the median of 2.2 percent among the lifetime records of representatives currently serving.

Candidates tend to almost always be the most vulnerable in their first re-election, Budzisz said, and for a candidate such as Blum, whose re-election speeches are almost the same as the ones given during his first campaign, that will present a major hurdle.

It remains to be seen as to whether that vote against Boehner will have lingering effects on Blum’s re-election campaign or whether it will be “water under the bridge,” Budzisz said.

For David Wasserman, the House editor at the Cook Political Report, Blum’s missed votes aren’t what makes him one of the top three most endangered Republicans in the House in 2016. Rather, it’s his aggressive position to oppose the party’s establishment.

“Here’s someone who alienated much of his own party’s leadership,” Wasserman said. “It would be surprising if he were to win election.”

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