CEDAR RAPIDS — Rep. Rod Blum, who two years ago called on northeast Iowans to elect Donald Trump and send him back to the U.S. House, is doubling down on his support for the Republican president.
Blum will host Trump in Dubuque on Thursday. Sunday, after Politico.com broke the news that the president would visit the Mississippi River city, Blum posted on Twitter:
“Looking forward to hosting @POTUS @realDonaldTrump in my hometown @cityofdubuque for a round table. President Donald Trump was the first Republican nominee to win Dubuque County since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 #IA01”
Not surprisingly, his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Abby Finkenauer, does not share Blum’s enthusiasm for a presidential visit.
“After failing to let our farmers speak directly to the vice president during his recent trip to Cedar Rapids, Congressman Blum has a responsibility to make it clear to President Donald Trump how damaging his Twitter trade war is for Iowa,” Finkenauer said in a statement released by her campaign.
“People’s livelihoods, and our entire economy, are at stake. It’s an insult to stand by the administration’s reckless trade policy and bring them to our district without a chance for farmers to voice their concerns.”
Trump’s visit comes two weeks after Vice President Mike Pence was in Cedar Rapids to assure farmers and manufacturers that they “will start winning again” as a result of the president’s trade negotiations.
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When Pence visited, Blum met with the vice president to impress on him concerns about the trade policy.
“I bent his ear about that a lot — about how farmers and ag disproportionately feel the retaliation from other countries,” Blum said about his dinner with Pence aboard Air Force Two.
While he supports Trump’s efforts to get better trade deals with Canada, Mexico and China, Blum said he told the vice president, “We need some good news — soon. Whatever it is, we need some good news.”
“The longer this goes on then we all, including me, people will start to question this,” Blum said.
Still, Christopher Budzisz, who teaches political science at Loras College in Dubuque, said the back-to-back visits by Pence and Trump suggest the president recognizes he and Blum are vulnerable. Trump’s response to Blum and other members of the Iowa congressional delegation, as well as Gov. Kim Reynolds, expressing their concerns with his trade policies “appears to be to come to states like Iowa to try to assure people that any negative impact will be minimal and better trade deals will be the consequence of any economic conflict.”
The president’s assurances may be enough for some voters, Budzisz said, “but as time goes on, and if prices and markets continue to suffer, these promises may be unsatisfactory.”
However, Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann thinks the visit likely will put the president and Blum in a positive light.
“If the topic of the roundtable is a subject 1st District voters care about — and I’m sure it will be — then it could have a positive effect,” Kaufmann said. “It will show a congressman with the ear of the president making sure the views of his district are part of the president’s discussion,” he said.
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Kaufmann compared it to the announcement earlier this month that the federal government was making $117 million available to Cedar Rapids for a flood wall “that showed Blum getting something done for his district.”
“It showed the value of persistence and relationships,” Kaufmann said.
He understands Democrats don’t like the president, but we have issues that need to be dealt with and I would think they would want the president to hear about them,” he said.
Trump and Blum carried Iowa’ 1st Congressional District — 20 counties that include Linn, Black Hawk, Dubuque and Marshall — in 2016. Since then, Blum, who outpolled Trump, has been targeted by the Democratic Party and its allies. He now is considered the most vulnerable Republican House incumbent and his race against Finkenauer is rated a “tossup.”
Trump visited Cedar Rapids in June 2017, claiming he was making “amazing progress” improving the economy, lowering unemployment, stopping the flow of illegal immigrants and, in short, delivering on his promise to “Make America Great Again”
Details of the presidential visit are expected to be announced later this week.
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