DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – Driving across Iowa on a 60-degree day in late October, this might seem like any another autumn day. Hawks and even the occasional bald eagle can be spotted gliding on warm air currents against a cloudless sky. A soft breeze is barely enough to turn the huge blades on windmill towers, while harvesters chew through corn and soybean fields.
Yet a fresh crop of yard signs has sprouted across the state, planted by candidates for national, state and local office. And outside money is pouring into Iowa along with political bigfoots rallying their troops to help tip the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The 1st Congressional District in northeast Iowa is seen as an opportunity for the Democrats to knock off a vulnerable Republican incumbent. Congressman Rod Blum is fighting for his seat against a well-funded campaign waged by Abby Finkenauer, a 29-year-old state lawmaker with a $3 million war chest who has outspent Blum 3-to-1 as of September.
National political handicappers say the 1st District race leans Democratic, but Blum, 63, has defied the odds before. He wasn’t supposed to win his first election four years ago in the strongly Democratic district. And he fooled them again by getting re-elected two years ago, with an assist from Donald Trump, who moved Iowa from twice supporting Barack Obama into the Republican column. Blum is counting on the president to come through for him again.
On the Blum Campaign Trail
Heading toward Dubuque, yard signs are mostly for state and county candidates. One says “Vote morally: Oppose abortion and same-sex marriage.”
In downtown Dubuque nestled between the bluffs and the Mississippi River, old factories and breweries have been transformed into trendy shops and restaurants as the city’s working-class city economy has diversified.
Blum is hosting an event in one of those old factories, the Novelty Iron Works founded shortly after the Civil War to make machinery for saw mills and steam engines.
The event, which drew about 25 people ranging from 20-somethings to retirees, is billed as a discussion of term limits, sponsored by U.S. Term Limits, a Washington, D.C.,-based advocacy group. Blum, who founded the Term Limits Caucus in the U.S. House, said career politicians have lost touch with the people.
Rather than “unilaterally disarm” by limiting his term on his own, however, Blum wants a constitutional amendment that affects all members of Congress – even veteran incumbents – with a limit of three terms in the House and one in the Senate.
“In 1900, the average term was 3½ years in the House and 6½ in the Senate,” Blum told the group. “What’s changed? Money: billions of dollars of dark money floating around the swamps of Washington, D.C.”
Before the event started, Dave Burggren, 69, a retired 3M salesman and Minnesota transplant who has lived in Dubuque for 22 years, talked about why he likes Blum.
“First off, I think he’s a straight-shooter. And, he gave, what was it, $400,000?” from his office budget back to the Treasury, Burggren said.
And President Trump?
“I like him. He shoots from the hip sometimes, but he is viewed as a businessman.”