Iowa Congressional 1Q 2016 fundraising news roundup

You’d never guess Representative Steve King was facing a primary challenger backed by Iowans with deep pockets by looking at Federal Election Commission filings alone. King isn’t raising money like an incumbent who’s worried about getting re-elected, and his Republican opponent Rick Bertrand didn’t disclose any fundraising or spending.

Follow me after the jump for highlights from all the first quarter FEC reports from Iowa’s U.S. House candidates. One Democrat out-raised all four of our state’s incumbents, and another Democrat nearly did so.

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IA-01: Blum releases internal poll showing him ahead of Vernon, Murphy

First-term Representative Rod Blum, one of the top Democratic targets in this year’s U.S. House races, released partial results from an internal poll showing him with 12-point leads over either Pat Murphy or Monica Vernon, his two challengers in the first Congressional district. I enclose below the campaign’s statement, which says Blum leads Murphy by 45 percent to 33 percent and Vernon by 43 percent to 31 percent among 500 "likely voters" in IA-01. In the same survey, 43 percent of respondents said they approved of Blum’s work, while 27 percent disapproved.

It’s not clear what likely voter screen the polling co, inc used for this survey. Blum’s campaign has not responded to my request for further information, including the gender and partisan breakdown of the sample, the question wording, and what questions were asked before the ballot tests. Also unknown: whether this poll was in the field before or after Blum made headlines for wishing a recession on Washington, DC.

Former Iowa House Speaker Murphy was Blum’s general election opponent in 2014, and Cedar Rapids City Council member Vernon was the runner-up in that year’s five-way Democratic primary. Murphy takes higher name recognition into this year’s race, while Vernon has raised more funds and has more support among the establishment in Iowa and Washington, DC. This week, her campaign rolled out endorsements from State Senator Jeff Danielson and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which includes 75 House Democrats. Vernon’s campaign also announced that it brought in more than $335,000 during the first quarter of 2016 and had $774,000 cash on hand as of March 31. Bleeding Heartland will follow up on Iowa Congressional fundraising after the April 15 deadline for candidates to file reports with the Federal Election Commission; year-end numbers are here.

The 20 counties in IA-01 contain 160,106 active registered Democrats, 139,973 Republicans, and 181,173 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

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Unpacking Joni Ernst's mixed messages about Donald Trump

Senator Joni Ernst has consistently pledged to support the Republican presidential nominee, whether that person is Donald Trump or someone else. She told Erin Murphy last week that she hopes the eventual nominee will headline her biggest campaign event of the year, the second annual "Roast and Ride" this August.

But in an apparent rebuke to the GOP front-runnner, Ernst made a splash a few days ago by saying women should not put up with Trump’s "nonsense," and that she is "disappointed" by the "name calling and finger-pointing" dominating the Republican race for the presidency.

Looking more closely at what Ernst told WHO-TV’s Dave Price, I have trouble finding any coherence to her views on Trump.

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IA-01: Rod Blum distancing himself from Chuck Grassley on Supreme Court nominee? (updated)

First-term Representative Rod Blum received unflattering attention last week in Iowa and nationally for opining on social media that Washington, DC "needs a recession," because various construction projects in the city are "Being built on the backs of US taxpayers." Blum hasn’t backed down from those comments, despite intense criticism.

However, little-noticed remarks he made in his district over the weekend suggest that Blum wants to avoid political fallout from the ongoing controversy over the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy.

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Will any elected Iowa Republicans vow to #NeverTrump?

In an effort to halt Donald Trump’s momentum and also to preserve some self-respect, a growing number of Republicans are vowing never to vote for Trump, even if he becomes the GOP presidential nominee. As Megan McArdle reported for Bloomberg, the #NeverTrump faction represents "all segments of the party — urban professionals, yes, but also stalwart evangelicals, neoconservatives, libertarians, Tea Partiers, the whole patchwork of ideological groups of which the Republican coalition is made."

Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman said she would consider voting for Hillary Clinton over Trump. At a funeral in Des Moines this past weekend, the daughter of the deceased (like Whitman a moderate Republican) struck a chord with some of the mourners when she joked during her eulogy that she was a little envious her mother would not have to vote in the presidential election now.

At the other end of the GOP ideological spectrum, staunch conservative U.S. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska became the first member of Congress to take the #NeverTrump pledge, laying out his reasoning in a long Facebook post.

So far, the most prominent Iowa Republican to join the #NeverTrump camp is right-wing talk radio host Steve Deace, who explained his stance in a column for the Conservative Review website. Deace worked hard to persuade fellow Iowans to caucus for Ted Cruz. Meanwhile, Marco Rubio endorser and former Waukee City Council member Isaiah McGee described himself to me as a "founding member" of #NeverTrump.

Early signs suggest that few, if any, elected GOP officials in Iowa will join the club.

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Congress approves spending bill and tax extenders: How the Iowans voted

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The good news is, the federal government won’t shut down before the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2016. The bad news is, members of Congress snuck some awful provisions in the "omnibus" budget bill and package of tax cut or tax credit extensions that just cleared the U.S. House and Senate. You know leaders aren’t proud when they bury news about a deal during another event occupying the political world’s attention, in this case Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate. I enclose below background on key provisions in the bills, as well as statements from the Iowans in Congress. I will update this post as needed.

The House held separate votes on the "tax extenders" and the omnibus. Republicans were nearly united in support of the tax bill (confusingly named "On Concurring in Senate Amdt with Amdt Specified in Section 3(b) of H.Res. 566"), which passed yesterday by 318 votes to 109 (roll call). The Democratic caucus was split; Naomi Jagoda and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill that House Democratic leaders "opposed the tax package" but "did not whip their members against it." Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04) all voted for the tax extenders; so did Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), one of 77 House Democrats to do so.

Loebsack was the only Iowan to vote for the omnibus bill, which easily passed this morning by 316 votes to 113 (roll call). Most of the Democratic caucus supported the bill that keeps the federal government open for at least nine more months; just 18 Democrats voted against it.

Although House Speaker Paul Ryan and his team persuaded 150 Republicans to vote for the budget measure, 95 Republicans opposed it, including all three Iowans. Blum and Young appear to have concluded that the bill was simply too expensive. King’s main objection was that none of his nine amendments were included in the final deal. Click through to read the texts of those amendments, which would have barred the use of appropriated funds for: enforcing the 2010 Affordable Care Act (health care reform law); implementing President Barack Obama’s executive orders to provide temporary protection against deportation for some immigrants who entered the country without permission; enforcing the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide; supporting any activities of Planned Parenthood Federation of America or any of its clinics, affiliates, or successors; implementing or enforcing any change to the U.S. EPA’s Waters of the United States rule; resettling refugees; implementing the multilateral deal struck earlier this year to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; implementing any regulation that stemmed from the recent international agreement to combat climate change; or expanding the use of H-2B visas.

The Senate combined the tax extenders and budget bills into one package, which passed this morning by 65 votes to 33 (roll call). Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst both voted no; in the statements I’ve enclosed below, Grassley went into greater detail about his reasons for opposing the package. However, earlier this week he released a separate statement bragging about some of the provisions he helped to insert in the tax legislation. Members of Congress from both parties use that sleight of hand.

Among the presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul voted against the omnibus, Lindsey Graham voted for it, and unbelievably, Marco Rubio missed the vote. What is wrong with this guy? He "has missed more than half of the Senate’s votes since October," Jordain Carney reported for The Hill. I think not showing up for Senate work will hurt Rubio in Iowa, though not having a strong field operation will hurt him more.

The Senate is now adjourned until January 11 and the House until January 5. During the winter recess, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the Iowa Congressional voting not covered here during the late summer and fall.

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