The super PAC aligned with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is expanding its target list into the House, beyond a pair of Senate races in which it is already tying Republicans to their presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
Priorities USA, an independent group designed primarily to elect Clinton, is now funding a 30-second ad in Iowa that has the double effect of hitting Trump for his controversial statements and tagging freshman Rep. Rod Blum (R) for his continued support of his party’s presidential nominee.
“Send me back to Congress, and you send Donald Trump to the White House,” Blum says at a campaign rally in the 30-second ad, after an array of controversial Trump statements appear on the screen. “Rod Blum still supports Trump today and even attacked Republicans who spoke out against Trump,” the narrator says.
It’s the latest expansion of the presidential campaign into the down-ballot races. On the stump herself, Clinton has been taking sharper aim at Republican members of Congress for their support of Trump, as her campaign has moved resources and staff into states that have gone traditionally Republican in presidential contests.
The super PAC is now making similar moves, albeit in a fashion that still keeps its fire very much trained on Trump and in states that are traditional battlegrounds. Previously, Priorities USA ran ads in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire attacking Sens. Pat Toomey and Kelly Ayotte, respectively, for their reluctance to completely denounce Trump.
(Ayotte waited until this month’s release of a 2005 video in which Trump talks about making aggressive unwanted advances toward women to withdraw her endorsement, and Toomey has remained in a neutral posture ever since Trump locked up the GOP nomination in the spring.)
Those two Senate seats are key to the effort to win back the Senate majority, and in the House, Blum’s seat is part of the strategy to chip away at the large Republican majority there. The group’s officials declined to say how many more ads targeting House Republicans are on the way.
GOP operatives take solace in the fact that Blum’s race is still considered a toss-up at this stage, a sign, they believe, that Trump’s struggling candidacy has not produced a wave that will wipe out their majority. Blum first won in 2014 in a very good year for Republicans, snatching a seat previously held by Bruce Braley (D), who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate that year.
The district has the strongest Democratic lean of the four Iowa seats, with President Obama winning there by 56 to 42 percent in 2012 over Republican Mitt Romney. And Blum has gone out of his way to be a confrontational conservative who Democrats originally hoped would be easily targeted by their nominee, Monica Vernon.
Blum drew bad headlines here in Washington and at home earlier this year when he tweeted derisively about the construction project on the District’s Southwest waterfront, suggesting that the economy here needed to go into a recession so Washington would understand the struggles of the rest of America.
That drew the ire of top Democratic strategists — many who’d never heard of Blum — who arranged a fundraiser for Norton with District business leaders.
Yet Iowa has proven to be a tough place for Clinton to break through. “Rod Blum was supposed to be one of Democrats’ easier takeover targets but Trump’s strong performance in the Hawkeye State kept the congressman in the game for longer than expected,” Nathan Gonzales, editor of the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, wrote last week about the race.
His last analysis, published Friday, predicted Democratic House gains of eight to 15 seats, well short of the 30 needed to hand the speaker’s gavel to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).