The most vulnerable U.S. House of Representatives seat is located in Iowa. That’s what Roll Call, a leading provider of congressional news, recently said about Iowa’s northeast district and its seat holder—Rod Blum.
Iowa is a swing state. Elections, here, have an element of uncertainty. But to be labeled “most vulnerable” out of 435 districts is something. Not everyone in Northeast Iowa resides in the 1st Congressional District, but all should wonder about the makings of the most vulnerable House seat in the country.
According to Ballotpedia, there are two big determining factors: election data and candidate viability.
Election data shows that the party of a newly elected president can be more vulnerable at mid-terms. That vulnerability increases if you’re a Republican representative running for re-election in a district that voted Democratic in the last presidential election. That’s not the case here, as Donald Trump won the district.
Trump’s win over Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, in that district was a narrow one, though, and the district voted for Barrack Obama in the previous two presidential elections.
The margin of victory from past congressional elections is also considered. Slimmer wins increase vulnerability. Blum beat his last opponent by almost eight percentage points—a comfortable victory.
The data shows some signs of vulnerability, but isn’t overwhelming. It’s hard to understand how it places the district more vulnerable than hundreds of others.
Then there’s candidate viability. A strong candidate needs a minimum of three things: a message that resonates with voters, a history that instills confidence and approval, and enough money to run a successful campaign.
Challenger Abby Finkenauer’s message is that she will fight to improve the standard of living for hard-working Americans. This sounds awfully close to fighting for the “forgotten ones” that Trump campaigned for in 2016. His message resonated, and voters put him in office.
The cause was a good one, and we’re beginning to see some positive results. According to Trading Economics, a provider of historical data on economic indicators, wages increased 4.56 percent in April, over the previous April. In fact, since December 2017 monthly wages have consistently been four percent higher than the previous year.
There’s room for improvement, but paychecks are already increasing.
The candidates’ personal histories sharply contrast. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the majority of representatives in the U.S. House are now millionaires. Rod Blum is one of them. To his credit, though, he became a self-made millionaire in the private sector before going to Washington, D.C. There are many government servants who become millionaires during their public service.
Finkenauer’s history is as a solid public servant.
She had previously worked as a page in the Iowa House of Representatives and after graduating from Drake University, she worked as a legislative assistant. In 2014, she was elected as a representative to the Iowa House and won re-election in 2016.
Blum is a success story from the private sector. Finkenauer is a success from the public one. Voters are more frequently choosing outsiders—those who aren’t career government individuals—to fix what’s wrong in Washington.
Strong candidate viability also requires enough money to run a successful campaign. Finkenauer has raised more than a million dollars, keeping her campaign on a level playing field with Rod Blum’s. And according to the Washington Post, the Nancy Pelosi-connected House Majority PAC plans to spend a half million dollars in television advertisements against Rod Blum. There will likely be a healthy response from Republican political action committees.
Finkenauer’s candidacy is certainly viable, but doesn’t seem so extraordinary that it would catapult the 1st Congressional District to most vulnerable status.
Anything can happen in a swing state, but the district’s “most vulnerable” ranking is a head-scratcher.
Rankings and polls, though, are slippery words in politics. Results are concrete.