IA-01: Lange out, Blum takes first shot at Paulsen

Catching up on news from last week, two-time Republican nominee Ben Lange has confirmed that he will not run for Congress next year in the open first district. Lange’s written statement, which I enclose at the end of this post, cited family reasons. As a practical matter, he would have been an underdog to win the nomination in IA-01 for a third time. He barely defeated Rod Blum in the 2012 primary despite having raised far more money and hired a larger campaign staff. In that race, many prominent Iowa Republicans and the National Republican Congressional Committee favored Lange, probably because he had come so close to defeating incumbent Bruce Braley in 2010. But Braley easily won re-election last year, carrying 17 of the 20 counties in IA-01.

Also last week, Blum previewed his case against likely primary rival Kraig Paulsen, the speaker of the Iowa House. I recommend reading the whole article by James Q. Lynch for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. A few excerpts are after the jump. I believe that Blum’s attacks on Paulsen will resonate with many activists who participate in Republican primaries.

Lynch reported on June 19,

“He’s an opportunist,” Blum said, claiming Paulsen would not be thinking about running if it wasn’t an open-seat race. […]

A spokesman for Cedar Rapids businessman Steve Rathje, who also is seeking the GOP nomination, demurred when asked about the impact if Paulsen gets into the race.

Blum, however, is taking a hard line against Paulsen, calling the six-term state representative “another career politician.” He’s no different than Braley, who is serving his fourth term, or Rep. Pat Murphy of Dubuque, the favorite to win the 1st District Democratic nomination, who has served 24 years in the Iowa Legislature, Blum said.

Paulsen is a “career politician and a lawyer who hasn’t created a single job,” Blum said. “If a lawyer and a career politician is the answer …”

During the 2012 primary campaign, Blum similarly depicted Lange as a wannabe career politician who had never done anything substantial in his career. Many of the same points would apply to Paulsen.

Speaking to Lynch, Paulsen responded by laying out his various achievements on tax and budget issues as Iowa House speaker. (You can read a longer version of Paulsen’s accomplishments here). Blum wasn’t impressed:

But those accomplishments have required Paulsen to be a “compromiser,” Blum charged.

“He wears it like a badge of honor,” he said. “That’s what we have in Congress now. How’s that working for us?”

Blum describes himself as willing to compromise “if it moves the ball toward our goal line.”

On its face, Blum’s argument makes no sense. Compromise with an opposing view almost never “moves the ball” toward your own goal—by definition, you have to move a bit toward the other side so that the people you’re compromising with (in Paulsen’s case the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate) will agree to part of what you want. But conservative culture, fueled by talk radio, increasingly portrays any kind of compromise as evil, and I believe Paulsen is very vulnerable to this kind of criticism.

Statement posted on Ben Lange’s public figure Facebook page on June 19:

“First I want to thank everyone who has supported my campaign for United States Congress over the past three years. A special thank you to the volunteers who have contacted me and encouraged me to run in the open 1st Congressional District in 2014. However, with three young daughters who are just beginning soccer, softball, basketball and all the other activities that parents of young children are familiar with, my family and I have decided that I will not be a candidate for United States Congress in Iowa’s 1st District in 2014. There is no doubt that this race is winnable, but it is not the right time for me. Thank you Iowans for supporting this small town candidate from Quasqueton.”

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