Sunday Grab Bag: Blum’s Buddies, Ravi Patel, and IDP Unforced Errors

Good morning readers! As always, a lot happened in the political world this week. Enjoy our Sunday Grab Bag of shorter takes on a number of Iowa and national political topics:

Rod Blum’s Buddies

Ted Cruz traveled across eastern Iowa with freshman Republican Congressman Rod Blum close at his side for three separate events on Wednesday and Thursday. One has to wonder if it’s really the best idea to have the guy who sponsored the phase-out of the RFS two weeks ago headlining your fundraiser.

Blum also delighted in telling the crowd in Cedar Falls how unpopular he is with Republican House leadership. He touted his vote against John Boehner for Speaker, siding with Steve King’s choice instead. He told the attendees that he wouldn’t be invited out to cocktails anytime soon with the most powerful man in Congress, which is a little odd to celebrate how little clout you have in your job. He also told the crowd “we don’t need a majority to win.” It was part of him explaining how determined conservative volunteers helped him win the Democratic-leaning district, but that and a few other comments came off very odd.

He got applause for his lines from the conservative crowd, but I think Blum is going to be in for a rude awakening come 2016. He didn’t win his first election to Congress because he was super-conservative and anti-establishment. He won it because it was an exceptional year for Republicans. 2016 won’t be.

Ravi Patel’s Successes and Challenges

Democratic candidate for the 1st District Ravi Patel announced a very impressive first quarter fundraising haul of over $525,000 on Friday. For comparison, Swati Dandekar raised just under $700,000 for her entire campaign last cycle. Patel’s success in the donor department should keep this race very interesting.

The week wasn’t all good news. The day after declaring his fundraising success, a Buzzfeed article hit him on a couple fines he got in college and his movie production. His first-week roll-out back in February was a mixed bag too, with the excitement of his launch tempered by some negative press. A few conservative outlets seized on Patel’s past movie production credits, including a bro-humor comedy. After that first week, Patel kept a lower profile in the state press, though it appears a good chunk of that time was spent raising all that money.

Patel’s candidacy will be fascinating to watch. He can clearly raise money like few others. His unique personal background helps his appeal, but will also be a source of easy opposition research. One thing’s for sure: with Patel’s fundraising, EMILY’s List backing of Monica Vernon, and Swati Dandekar being able to raise good money too, the 1st District Democratic primary is going to be very expensive.

The IDP’s Social Media Blunder

Last week a former communications director for the state party (you know who I’m talking about, but I’ll omit her name here so as to not add to her future Google problems) took a pretty dumb picture outside of an emergency scene in New York City. That photo ended up in last Sunday’s New York Post in a story about tourists taking selfies during the crisis. It was a bad embarrassment for the former staffer, but it appeared for a while that her name was only getting bashed in New York. Starting Line monitored Twitter closely this time last week to see if any press was picking up on her name specifically, and they weren’t.

That was, at least, until after the Iowa Democratic Party started posting on social media about it. “[Staffer’s Name] hasn’t worked for us since March 6th, when she resigned to pursue other opportunities,” the IDP said in replies to any tweet mentioning her, even to users who only had a few hundred followers. None of them were actual reporters. Then the IDP posted the same type of message to their Facebook page, which was taken down after about an hour.

This was ill-advised for a number of reasons: 1. Most political reporters of importance who might write about it already knew she had left the IDP; 2. Any legitimate news outlet would have reached out to the IDP for comment, where they could have explained by email or phone; 3. Since she didn’t work there anyway, the IDP wasn’t going to sustain any real damage; 4. The post on Facebook (which you use to speak to your supporters) only served to alert Iowa Democrats to the story; and 5. Most importantly, you risk blowing up the story more.

That may be exactly what happened. A Des Moines Register reporter re-tweeted one of the IDP’s reply-tweets, and the paper ran a story with her apology a few hours later. After that a number of other news outlets ran the story, including KCCI, KETV, Huffington Post, Breitbart, and the UK’s Daily Mail, all of which referenced the Register story. Would the former staffer’s name (or the IDP) shown up in state, national and international stories had her former employer not been tweeting about it? Starting Line has heard grumbling from quite a few Democratic insiders who believe not. (Also – does a foolish action that didn’t hurt anyone really warrant that huge of blow-back?)

Look, the IDP has talented, hard-working staff, but they’ve got to improve their social media and press management. The party needs to hire good staff to ensure the Iowa Caucus runs smoothly, but incidents like these suggest their advertisement is, “Come work for the IDP: the minute you walk out the door, we’ll throw you under the bus.”

The Week Ahead

It’s an all-out Iowa Caucus week in our state as multiple Republican and Democratic candidates visit next week. A home schooling conference on Thursday brings Republicans Huckabee, Santorum, Trump, Jindal and Perry to Des Moines. Democrats O’Malley and Webb visit at the end of the week, with both speaking at the Polk County Democrats dinner Friday night.

Starting Line will also highlight a younger Democrat running for school board in Des Moines, take a look at O’Malley’s actual chances, and finally get around to posting another Top 10 list I’ve been putting off forever. And the 1st District race should get more crowded on Monday with Gary Kroeger making a big announcement. See you around and On Wisconsin!


by Pat Rynard
Posted 4/5/15

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