Blum seen as vulnerable in 2018

Poll finds voters disapprove of job he's doing

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Even as Mondays go, it was not a great day for Rep. Rod Blum.

Not only was he listed as the fourth most vulnerable U.S. House incumbent, but a poll showed two largely unknown Democrats beating the Iowa 1st District congressman in his bid for a third term.

RollCall.com, which covers Congress, speculated that the Dubuque Republican’s votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act could hurt him in the northeast Iowa district that President Barack Obama carried twice by double digits.

Despite Democratic efforts to tie him to then-candidate Donald Trump, Blum won his district by 7.7 percentage points — outperforming Trump in the 2016 election.

A Public Policy Polling poll now shows Blum losing to two Democrats who are seeking their party’s nomination to face the incumbent in 2018.

The survey of likely general election voters found that Thomas Heckroth is beating Republican Rep. Rod Blum 42 percent to 41 percent and state Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Dubuque, beating Blum 43 percent to 42 percent. The poll also found that more than half the respondents say they disapprove of Blum’s job performance.

“Traveling across this district, it’s clear that people are ready for real leadership that puts working families ahead of billionaires and big corporations,” Heckroth said. “Rod Blum’s failure to deliver that leadership and focus on the needs of his constituents has made him vulnerable and it’s time to make a change.”

But Blum noted the poll indicates his circumstances have improved.

“Nothing has changed other than Roll Call moved Congressman Blum from second to fourth on its list after he won re-election by nearly 8 points,” spokesman John Ferland said.

“Congressman Blum campaigned on replacing Obamacare in 2016, kept his promise, and will continue to work on reigniting the economy and draining the swamp in DC,” he said.

Democrats attribute Blum’s 2016 victory, in part, to voters in the 20-county district — that includes Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Dubuque and Marshalltown — wanting change.

“He’s been there four years and what’s changed?” Heckroth spokesman Sam Roecker said.

Although Blum had voted to repeal Obamacare before the 2016 election, Roecker said Blum’s continued votes to repeal along with his recent votes on tax reform “to benefit corporations and billionaires has created a snowball effect. Voters are asking ‘what has he done for me lately?’ ”

Finkenauer said the poll results show that “when Rod Blum goes to bat, it’s for Wall Street not Main Street.”

She was not surprised by the RollCall.com rating because “when we told him that we wanted to fix health care and keep what worked, he voted to make it more expensive for older Iowans and jeopardized coverage for 1.2 million Iowans with pre-existing conditions.”

The poll found 33 percent approval of the job Blum is doing, with 52 percent disapproving. Trump gets a 42 percent approval rating to 52 percent disapproval.

Heckroth and Finkenauer are largely unknown to voters, according to the poll of 737 likely general election voters — 38 percent Democrats and 34 percent Republicans.

Seventy percent don’t know enough about Heckroth, who lives in Cedar Falls and is a former aide to Sen. Tom Harkin, to have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him. Likewise, 69 percent don’t have an opinion on Finkenauer, according to the poll.

Courtney Rowe of Cedar Rapids and George Ramsey III of Marion also are seeking the Democratic nomination.

RollCall.com’s inclusion of Blum on the “most vulnerable” list follows a trend by election handicappers. The Cook Political Report moved the race from “lean Republican” to “toss-up.” Bloomberg News said it’s one of six races Democrats have to flip if they are going to regain the House majority.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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