In 2010, Ben Lange handily won the Republican primary in the 1st Congressional District with 41 percent of the vote. Lange’s nearest opponent garnered only 18 percent of the vote. Even though Lange almost defeated Congressman Bruce Braley in the general election, the 1st District primary was largely uneventful because all of the candidates were basically unknown and lacked any sort of financial recourses with which to wage their campaigns.
Lange enters the 2012 race as a clear frontrunner to win the Republican primary in the 1st District even though the boundaries have been changed due to redistricting. However to capture the nomination, he will have to navigate through a much different primary than he experienced two years ago.
In 2010, Lange was one of four candidates on the ballot. This time he shares the ballot with just one opponent, Dubuque businessman Rod Blum. Blum is also a different type of opponent than Lange faced in 2010. Blum is a long time Republican activist who is well known in his community. Unlike Lange’s 2010 primary opponents, Blum is everything that you would expect from a congressional candidate. He’s intelligent, well spoken, and knowledgeable on a number of issues.
Even though Blum is not the favorite to win the nomination, he has the potential to make Lange work for the nomination. However, while Blum brings a lot of good attributes to his campaign, he has struggled in raising money for his campaign. The first quarter fundraising reports show that Blum only raised $9,667.50, while Lange raised eleven times that amount – $110,574.22. Lange’s fundraising haul pales in comparison to what Congressman Braley raised in the quarter, but it’s his second straight period of raising over $100,000, which is something he didn’t do in his last campaign until after he secured the nomination.
There is still time for Blum to raise the necessary funds to be competitive with Lange, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to be likely. In two fundraising quarters Blum has only been able to obtain one contribution outside of his home county. More troubling is that Blum only has 29 disclosed donors to his campaign. All donors who give more than $200 to a candidate in an election cycle must be disclosed.
Blum has shown some ability to fund his campaign himself. Thus far, he has contributed $22,288.40 to his campaign, but it will take much more than that to make this a competitive race. Blum’s ability to only raise money from two of the twenty counties in the district may also indicate a lack of public awareness of his candidacy.
Only time will tell if Blum has a working grassroots operation that will help him overcome Lange’s fundraising advantage, but by the looks of things, Lange seems well positioned to once again claim the Republican nomination in the 1st District. On paper, Blum looks like a formidable challenger to Lange, but campaigns are not waged on paper.
While there is a lot more to campaigns than just fundraising, mounting a credible campaign takes money, especially if you are trying to knock off a better-known opponent who almost beat the incumbent in the last cycle. Blum’s business background allows him to run as a job creator, but he needs to be able to run a multifaceted media campaign, and it doesn’t seem like he will be able to afford to do that.
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