Republican rivals Rod Blum and Ben Lange continue to make very different cases for their candidacies in Iowa's first Congressional district. Blum emphasizes his biography and experience, while Lange emphasizes the network of support he is building in his second attempt to defeat Representative Bruce Braley.
Follow me after the jump for a closer look at Blum's pitch to Republican audiences and Lange's new endorsements from nine GOP state legislators, complementing the steering committee he announced earlier this month.
On March 10, Blum spoke to Republican delegates at four county conventions: Linn, Fayette, Black Hawk, and Jackson. He had surrogates speaking on his behalf at most of the other conventions in the district.
Linn County is the most populous in the new IA-01, and Blum's speech to delegates there is up on YouTube. The video is blurry, but Blum's voice is clear.
Blum leads with his business background in software development and real estate development. For 21 years, he's managed a payroll and balanced a budget. This is consistent with the "age, experience and accomplishments" theme running through his campaign communications.
Blum outlines two main reasons he's running for Congress. First, 80 percent of Americans do not believe their children will live a better life than they do. He lived the American dream and thinks it's a "tragedy" and "travesty" if that is lost. He wants to get the government off our backs so that our children can live the American dream. Second, the Founding Fathers envisioned an inverted triangle with "we the people" at the top and the government at the bottom. Instead, we now have the "tyranny" of a triangle with government at the top and the people at the bottom. Blum wants to restore the proper balance.
Blum never mentions Lange by name during this speech, but around the 1:46 mark, he begins to make a case against his GOP primary rival. He tells the Linn County delegates that he not an "aspiring career politician." Rather, he thinks career politicians are part of the problem. He supports term limits and a steep salary cut for members of Congress. (Lange worked as a Congressional staffer during his 20s and has limited job experience outside the political world.)
Blum picks up this thread again around the 4:05 mark:
There's a primary June 5, I'd appreciate your support. I think the GOP gets in trouble--we did in '96 with Bob Dole, when we say this person now deserves to be nominated, it's his turn. I am the person who has the age, I also have the career experience and the accomplishments to go toe to toe with Bruce Braley. He is profoundly beatable. We can do this this time in 2012.
Lange hinted in his official campaign announcement that he deserves the GOP nomination because he took on Braley against long odds in 2010, when "nobody else would."
I heard an indirect answer to that assertion early in Blum's stump speech, shortly after the candidate describes himself as "staunchly pro-life from conception to the cradle to the grave" (around the 1:10 mark):
Most importantly, I'm a husband, father, stepfather, and a surrogate father to Malcolm, who's a 19-year-old African-American boy from the inner city of Chicago. I coached him. He became an orphan when his mother died at 42 years old. We took him into our home and into our family. That's why I did not run [for Congress] two years ago, because we were doing something that was very pro-life. We were trying to save one man's life.
Blum added that Malcolm was once a sixth-grader who could not read but is now a junior at the University of Dubuque with a 3.8 grade point average.
Blum's latest campaign newsletter, released on March 19, makes a more explicit case against Lange's candidacy.
Greetings from the 1st Congressional District campaign trail! When I spoke in Osage last week at the Mitchell County GOP meeting, a lady asked me how I was different from my primary opponent. A very good question and something voters should know! I spoke about my age, experience and accomplishment. I believe that having raised a family, taking care of your parents, starting businesses, meeting a payroll every week for 21 years, balancing a budget and dealing with an over-reaching government every day is the type of experience needed in Washington. I questioned how many lawyers in Washington could meet a payroll? I spoke about a lifetime of experiencing success, as well as defeat, builds character in a person. I also shared that I do not covet a career in politics - in fact I firmly believe career politicians in Washington are a large part of the problem.
Most Iowans I speak to are tired of "politics as usual". They are tired of the establishment in Washington telling them how to run their lives. They are tired of career politicians. They are tired of media reports of fundraising results and the numbers of professional political staff that have been hired. This is exactly what has gotten us in this mess . . . it surely won't get us out of it.
That last dig refers to the Lange campaign press release of February 27, which announced "the addition of several key members to his 2012 campaign team": Cody Brown of CODIAS LLC as advisor, Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies as pollster, Ron Butler of Creative Direct LLC as direct mail consultant, Jake Braunger as director of operations, Kate Maloy as finance director, and Greg Torgerson as treasurer.
I am seeking further information about the claim Blum posted on Facebook earlier this month:
Learning the ropes about politics: my primary opponent insinuates a govt. job to some "volunteers" if elected. More politics as usual.
If you're tired of politics as usual visit: www.rodblum.com
So far, Lange's not taking Blum's bait. He is sticking to his story about having the largest and most effective campaign organization in IA-01. From the Lange for Congress press release of March 21:
Key State Legislators Join Lange's Steering Committee
Lange continues to build broad coalition for Braley challenge
Independence, IA - Less than 2 weeks after having announced over 50 tea party leaders, Republican activists, and community leaders as members of the Lange Steering Committee, U.S. Congressional candidate Ben Lange adds key state Senators and state Representatives to Committee.
"I am humbled to have the support of these fine legislators. Clearly Iowans all across the new 1st District have come together to challenge incumbent Bruce Braley," Lange said.
State Representative Steven Lukan (Dubuque) said, "Ben is a working class Iowan like us and given the certain financial catastrophe to face this nation, we need someone like Ben who can look us in the eye and tell us the truth."
"We need fresh blood in Washington. We cannot continue to send the 'same old, same old' and hope for solutions to Washington's fiscal insanity. What we need is someone who has the guts to put principle before party," commented State Representative Walt Rogers (Black Hawk).
"Ben has earned district-wide support, a top-notch organization, and garnered the necessary resources to go toe-to-toe with Bruce Braley and win." added State Senator Tim Kapucian (Benton)
The additions to the Lange for Congress Steering Committee include:
State Rep Bob Hager (Allamakee)
State Rep Lee Hein (Jones)
State Sen Tim Kapucian (Benton)
State Rep Steven Lukan (Dubuque)
State Rep Brian Moore (Jackson)
State Rep Dawn Pettengill (Benton)
State Rep Josh Byrnes (Mitchell)
State Rep Walt Rogers (Black Hawk)
State Rep Lance Horbach (Tama)
"The addition of these men and women to our team is another sign that Iowans have had enough of Braley's extreme and divisive agenda. I look forward to continuing to unite Iowans of all stripes and backgrounds in the coming weeks."
Kapucian is an assistant Senate minority leader, and Lukan is an assistant House majority leader, but Lukan isn't running for re-election, and neither is Horbach. Five of Lange's new steering committee members are first-term Iowa House members (Rogers, Byrnes, Moore, Hein, and Hager), so I wouldn't consider them "key" state legislators. Then again, all sitting lawmakers have a certain amount of clout with party activists in their districts.
While I understand the tactics, the quotations in this press release strike me as too generic. Any challenger could be described as "fresh blood" able to "look us in the eye and tell us the truth." Claiming someone has "the guts to put principle before party" is more convincing if you can provide at least one example of Lange putting his principles before Republican Party interests. We're all left guessing what Rogers is talking about.
Kapucian's comment echoes earlier rhetoric from the Lange camp: our guy deserves the nomination because he has raised more money and is building a stronger organization. Granted, I'm not the target audience, but "I have more cash and more endorsements from important people" doesn't sound too inspiring to me.
Maybe Lange doesn't need to say more than that, given the name recognition advantage he carries from his 2010 campaign. Blum has been spending a lot of time on the road, but he may also need to spend a substantial amount of his campaign cash introducing himself and his message to primary voters before June.
Any comments about the IA-01 race are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Lange has been hitting the parade circuit. Here's a photo of his truck for the March 24 St. Joseph's Day parade in the "Czech Village" neighborhood of Cedar Rapids. The only slogan I see on the truck (other than Lange's campaign logo) is a colorful "VOTE FOR MY DADDY" sign. At the St. Patrick's Day parade in Waukon (Allamakee County), Lange's young daughters posed next to a green "Vote for my Irish Daddy" sign.