IA-01: Who should run against Rod Blum?

Judging by the comments in this thread, Bleeding Heartland readers are eager to discuss who should take on Republican Rod Blum in the next election to represent Iowa’s first Congressional district.

Blum should be a one-termer. Unofficial results show he beat Pat Murphy by about 7,000 votes (51.2 percent to 48.7 percent) in a banner year for Iowa Republicans. Democratic turnout should be much higher for a presidential election than it was this year. Blum’s record in Congress will also make him an easier target for the next Democratic opponent. He didn’t campaign like an extreme right-winger, but he’s about to start voting like one, which will hurt him with independents. The next Paul Ryan budget (which Blum will support) will include big cuts to entitlement programs. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Blum help House Republicans shut down the federal government again.

Who should be the next Democratic nominee in IA-01? My first thoughts are after the jump.

From the moment I heard Tom Harkin was retiring, my dream candidate for this district has been Iowa Senate President Pam Jochum. However, it sounds as if she would be more open to a future run for governor than for Congress. We couldn’t do better than Jochum for a gubernatorial candidate in 2018, in my opinion.

Last year, many Democrats hoped State Senator Liz Mathis would run for Bruce Braley’s seat in Congress. She opted out because her youngest child was finishing high school. That wouldn’t be an issue for a 2016 race. One problem, though: running for Congress would force Mathis to vacate Iowa Senate district 34 in the Cedar Rapids suburbs. The GOP would surely target that district, and with a 26-24 Iowa Senate majority, Democrats can’t afford to lose any seats.

Several of this year’s Democratic candidates may want to take another shot at IA-01. I feel Murphy had his chance and should let someone else take on Blum next cycle. I suspect Monica Vernon and Swati Dandekar (the second- and third-place candidates from the 2014 primary) would wait to see whether Mathis is running, since all three women have a base in Linn County. Although I think highly of former State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic, Iowa voters will look for someone with more professional and/or political experience than two terms in the state House.

I would rather see a competitive Democratic primary in IA-01 than one candidate anointed early to take on Blum.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S. – A post is in progress about how Blum managed to beat Murphy. Short version: 1) Republican wave year, 2) A skillful marketing campaign focused on Blum’s personal attributes, rather than policy stands, 3) Effective use of a video that didn’t reflect Murphy’s typical demeanor but made him look like a raving lunatic.

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  • Alternatives

    Not for me to say perhaps as I live in the 3rd, but it’s just speculating so … the thing I wonder about Swati Dandekar is, how do people feel about her sellout to Branstad for that cushy IUB appointment? I don’t really know her political views. I think it would be cool for a Democratic, immigrant woman of color to be sent to Congress from Iowa, but said sellout left a really bad taste for me and nearly delivered the state senate to the Republicans.

    OTOH, Liz Mathis stepped up and saved the day, which has made her kind of a hero to me, although I don’t know much about her politics either.

  • Turnout

    Also, kind of OT, but I wonder if we have any idea yet of the statewide turnout by party? I looked on the SoS website, but the “statewide statistical report” isn’t up yet and I see the 2012 one wasn’t posted until January 2013, so we may have to wait a while for that.

    • it's always a couple of months

      before the statewide statistical report comes out. We’ll have more info when the election results are certified (usually last week of November or first week of December).

  • Hogg or Jochum

    Let Rob Hogg have it.  I would rather he try his approach in one district.  I don’t think the issue of climate change is an electoral winner here yet though, regardless of where one falls on the issue.

    Tyler Olson should get a mulligan at some point, but 2016 may be too soon.  

    Pam Jochum should get first dibs if she wants it though.  Some people are going to have to convince me about Liz Mathis.  I am a bigger supporter of Jochum than I would be Mathis.  

    • if Hogg ran in 2016

      he wouldn’t have to give up his Senate seat, and if he won, we wouldn’t have to worry about a Republican winning his Senate seat. He is solid on a lot of issues, not a one-note on climate change.

      • Hogg's book

        I agree.  Hogg is versed on a number of issues, but they would use climate change as their main line of attack.  I haven’t read his book, but I’m sure there is plenty of information within it that would be taken out of context.  

        • Hogg

          Rob Hogg will run against Grassley in 2016. Yeah, I know, but Hogg doesn’t care. Also, things can change in two years.  

          • he can run against Grassley

            or in IA-01 without giving up his Iowa Senate seat, since he was just re-elected to a four-year term.

            On the other hand, if he were to run for governor or attorney general in 2018, he would have to give up his Senate seat.

  • I Stand Pat with Murphy

    Our sole remaining federal level Democrat won on a fluke during a wave election.  Loebsack was a write-in candidate with no organization to speak of, no TV ads and he was probably more shocked than anyone when he won.  That shows you the power of a wave election.

    To repeat and build on my argument from the previous post-Minnesota has been outperforming National Democrats. In Minnesota they ask candidates to commit to running twice.  This builds campaign skills and expertise, not to mention the benefits of having a candidate with good name recognition in the area.  Murphy ran well in a very, very tough year.  He played well in the rural areas of the district.  This was a huge Republican wave election in which Iowa elected a loon to the Senate, and yet he almost won.  He has earned a chance to run during a Democratic (Presidential) year.  Demonizing and dumping a candidate for losing in such a climate seems like a huge waste.

    The average American cannot name who represents them in Congress, let alone anyone in their State House.  The average voter may have more familiarity, but even political junkies tend to focus on the Federal level races.  Pat is now known in this district in a way that no state house politician could be.  Additionally, the opposition party has used their best attacks on him already. So, to the extent that the “Angry Pat” ad was a factor in his loss,(absent exit polling data showing this I am not convinced) it is an argument that has already been made, it’s old news.  Who knows what would be dredged up on a new candidate?

    Besides, forewarned is forearmed.  Try it again.  Try it when the Democratic base is voting.  Who do you think a young single woman would find more appealing-Buttoned up Blum or Fighting Murphy?  Same goes for our working class base and our minority voters.  I have to admit I never saw this ad until after the election, I don’t watch television.  When I heard about it, I watched it online.  I was filled with dread that it was some horrible effeminate Howard Dean scream.  It was not.  I can easily picture a response ad…..

    …Rod Blum has the vapors because Murphy fought for Iowans right to call their elected officials. In Congress, Blum politely went along when Washington politicians wanted to (insert issue here – shut down the government? slash social security?)  Murphy-he’ll fight for our Iowa values….

    BTW, Staci Appel’s results in her urban counties Polk and Pottawatamie were also worse than Braleys.  I think Murphy is a great candidate who ran in a tough year and that he will cruise to a victory next time, I hope that he runs.

    • I am not demonizing anyone

      I simply would prefer to see a new candidate in 2016. Clearly the Democratic voters in IA-01 will decide. Murphy barely won the primary this year against a splintered field. I think it will be hard for him to convince others to give him another shot at Blum, especially if he has only one or two opponents in the primary.

      • Sorry...

        I did not mean to make it seem like I was attacking you personally, or that I was saying that you were demonizing Murphy per se.  I just note that our party has a bad habit of saying…oh, they lost, they are a loser and they have taint!  As in the example of Jack Hatch-instead of recognizing that he was doomed to lose from the start and that his sacrifice on behalf of our party has helped him build experience, contacts and state wide name recognition that could make him a viable contender against Grassley, he will likely be discarded.  Some losers deserve to exit stage left…they earned their loss, but others are our clearest path forward.  

        Who knows who will run in a primary, this is a likely Democratic pick up seat and very tempting to many ambitious Democratic politicians.  Republicans have even been known to change parties to win such a prize!  But I am trying to make this argument, not just for Murphy’s sake, but for the sake of all our candidates and our party in this state.  For example, I have heard that Appel ran an excellent campaign also, I don’t know the district, but if that is the case…perhaps there should be at least one rematch.  

    • Murphy

      I don’t know.  When the DCCC chair is on you about your fundraising while Appel and Mowrer are holding their own, something isn’t clicking.  My sense from some D friends up there was that they didn’t think Murphy was working it hard enough – like he took Blum lightly early. And I still have a bad taste in my mouth about his skills after he burned a ton of goodwill holding the project labor vote open overnight, exposed his members, and then took it to the floor and lost the vote.  You’d never see Gronstal make that strategic and vote-counting mistake, and it cost us seats.  He is good on the issues, his heart is in the right place, but between that event and losing an election in a solid D performance district I’m not seeing a lot of proof he can deliver.  I’d be for giving someone else a shot.  

      • Money

        Money in politics is a necessary evil, even more so since Citizens United.  But it will never be the whole story.  Just ask Eric Cantor.  Or Jim Leach.  Leach lost this District simply because it was also a wave election.  Comparing total fundraising numbers is between Appel, Mowrer and Murphy is misleading.  Murphy outraised Blum by about the same amount they outraised their opponents.  He raised more in individual contributions also and forced him to self fund to the tune of a couple hundred thousand.  If the DCCC wants to be critical, perhaps they should remove the mote from their own eye first.  I am not alone in being convinced that the national party organizations helped to depress their own voter turn out with their relentless, constant and very negative desperate fundraising emails to activist donor and supporter lists.  Are the small dollar donations you might raise in this manner really worth demoralizing your base?  Even Jon Stewart mocked them for this.

        I cede your point on the prevailing wage vote, though I will never know the whole backstory of how this went down.  But we aren’t electing a House majority leader or even a whip.  We are trying to elect a good, solid, progressive voice in Congress.  

        This is not a solid D performance district.  It is a newly fashioned district that is not nearly as solid as the Loebsack’s old district.  Braley won this district once, since the redistricting, and that was as an partial incumbent during a Presidential election.

        I fully support Murphy as the best choice going forward because for all my already elucidated reasons he is the best choice for electability.  Further though, I support him because he is a progressive leader that I trust.  Should he chose not to run, or if he is defeated by a reasonable alternative I will fall in line behind them.

        But if the party choses to select a self-funding CorpraDem, a Blue Dog like Monica Vernon, I’m going Green.  Let’s face it, the House isn’t going to be in play for some time to come due to Republican gerrymandering anyway, and I would rather have an honest enemy that I can face on the field of battle then a traitor in the tent.

  • This

    Moderate (R) was a delegate to the IA-01 convention.  Only two candidates ever called me personally.  The first was Matt “judges need a biblical view of law” Whitaker.  I wasn’t interested in that nonsense.  The second was Rod Blum.  Rod actually asked me about things that I thought were relevant.  When I showed up to the convention, he remembered my name and a few trivial personal details.  I certainly chafe at the thought of Blum endorsing Steve Forbes-ian tax policy, but he connected with voters.  My prediction is that he is gone in 2016 for a few reasons;

    -(R)s cannot appear to be against the orthodox of their base for fear of talk-radio backlash; hence, he will not have any chances for “bi-partisan” policy by championing bills with the (D)s

    -as a 1st termer, he will vote in lockstep with the leadership

    -there’s a good chance the only bills he will have a chance to vote on are repealing the ACA and a few throwaway trade agreement proposals

    This moderate (R) has never heard any other members of his professional community say a bad thing about Bruce Braley, and he winces at the thought of Senator Joni Ernst.  

    • on the issues

      Blum is lockstep with the hardcore Liberty crowd. He was able to gloss over that during this year’s campaign but next time, his Democratic opponent will be able to showcase Blum’s radical voting record, not just a few quotes from long-ago newspaper columns.

      I will say this for Blum: he ran a smart race where many people (myself included) never gave him a shot. He scared off Walt Rogers and raised the money he needed to be successful. Sure, he also got lucky to be running in a wave year–if he had won that 2012 primary, he would have been trounced.

      I talk to plenty of Republicans. You’re not the only one cringing about Joni Ernst.