Dubuque, Iowa — Speaker Paul Ryan will hold a reception for Iowa representative Rod Blum next month, marking a notable shift in the relationship between House GOP leaders and those among the conference’s rank-and-file with whom they’ve so often been at odds during the 114th Congress.
Blum faces one of the toughest reelection battles of any incumbent Republican this cycle, running in a district where President Obama beat Mitt Romney with 56 percent of the vote four years ago. And early last year, when the National Republican Congressional Committee released the list of incumbents who would be part of its Patriot program, an effort to devote special attention and money to members facing tough races, Blum’s name was absent. The omission was widely perceived as punishment for Blum’s decision to vote against John Boehner’s reelection as speaker, in spite of the fact that Boehner had campaigned for him in 2014. Blum himself acknowledged that bucking Boehner had done him no favors with the NRCC.
But, according to Blum, there’s been a “marked change” now that Paul Ryan is in charge of the House GOP conference.
“Ryan is . . . doing a reception for me I think in February in Washington, DC. . . . That’s all good stuff,” Blum tells National Review in an interview after a speaking to veterans at the Veterans Freedom Center here.
Ryan’s office confirmed the event in a statement to NR. “Speaker Ryan will be doing an event in Washington, D.C. to support congressman Blum’s reelection efforts. The speaker is always happy to support his colleagues as we work to defend and strengthen the majority.”
#share#Since he first agreed to run for speaker, Ryan has been open about wanting to improve relationships between leadership and the House Freedom Caucus, which often clashed with Boehner and his lieutenants. His reception for Blum is indicative of efforts toward that goal.
“Boehner’s regime was Nixonian, you know, complete with an enemies list, basically, and I was on that list, and I’m proud of it,” Blum says. “But I just don’t think Paul Ryan’s that kind of guy.”
Ryan’s reception aside, Blum’s status within the NRCC remains unchanged: he is not a member of the Patriot program, according to the program’s website. The NRCC previously noted to Roll Call that there are “multiple rounds” in which members are named to the program. But Republicans not affiliated with the NRCC have noted that there may be little incentive for the committee to add Blum to the list, since the resources they’d otherwise spend on his race could be devoted to other districts where the odds are not so stacked against them.
The NRCC declined a request for comment.
— Alexis Levinson is the senior political reporter for National Review.