Rand Paul's Iowa visit highlights, plus: should Rod Blum endorse?

U.S. Senator Rand Paul came to central Iowa this weekend. He drew more than 200 people to an event in Des Moines on Friday night, packed a restaurant in Marshalltown on Saturday morning, and took in the Iowa State men’s basketball game that afternoon. It was Paul’s first visit to our state since October, when he campaigned in eastern Iowa with Congressional candidate Rod Blum and Senate candidate Joni Ernst. Clips with more news from Paul’s appearances are after the jump, along with excerpts from Shane Goldmacher’s recent article for the National Journal, which depicted former Iowa GOP chair A.J. Spiker as an “albatross” for Paul’s caucus campaign.

Before I get to the Rand Paul news, some quick thoughts about Representative Blum, who joined Paul for his Marshalltown event. Blum didn’t endorse a candidate before the 2012 Iowa caucuses and told The Iowa Republican’s Kevin Hall that he doesn’t “plan to endorse anyone” before the upcoming caucuses, adding,

“I might at the very end. We need a strong leader. We need genuine, authentic leadership and I may rise or fall in my election in two years based on who this presidential candidate is.”

I will be surprised if Blum doesn’t officially back Paul sometime before the caucuses. The “Liberty” movement got behind him early in the GOP primary to represent IA-01. At that time, many Iowa politics watchers expected the nomination to go to a candidate with better establishment connections, such as Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen or State Representative Walt Rogers. Paulsen eventually chickened out of the race, and Rogers bailed out a few months before the primary after overspending on campaign staff. Arguably, Blum owes Liberty activists for helping him scare off the strongest Republican competition. Without them, he might be a two-time failed GOP primary candidate, rather than a first-term member of Congress.

The case against Blum endorsing Paul before the caucuses is that doing so might anger GOP supporters of other presidential candidates. Even if Paul remains in the top tier by this time next year, 70 percent to 80 percent of Iowa Republican caucus-goers will likely prefer someone else. Blum will need all hands on deck to be re-elected in Iowa’s first district, which is now one of the most Democratic-leaning U.S. House seats held by a Republican (partisan voting index D+5). It will be a top target for House Democrats in 2016.

Still, I think Blum would be better off endorsing than staying neutral. Most Republicans in the IA-01 counties will vote for him in the general election either way. By getting behind Paul when it counts, Blum would give Liberty activists more reasons to go the extra mile supporting his campaign later in the year, regardless of whether Paul becomes the presidential nominee or (as I suspect) seeks another term as U.S. senator from Kentucky. Besides, if Blum really believes that Paul’s outreach to youth and minorities has the potential to grow the GOP, he should invest some of his political capital in that project.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?  

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