In the House, Rep. Rod Blum resides pretty far down the GOP totem pole. He's a first-term representative, he has no notable rank in leadership, and he's committee chairman of exactly nothing. So why, on a recent day, was Blum fielding a call from Jeb Bush? And why, for that matter, has just about every other Republican 2016 presidential contender come to Blum in a bid to curry favor?
Because Blum is from Iowa, home to the first contest of the 2016 presidential primaries, and in an ultra-competitive field his endorsement is highly sought after.
Compared to their more-senior counterparts, brand-new members of Congress typically exist on Washington's periphery. But when a White House nomination is on the line, an exception is made for newcomers who happen to hail from states hosting early primary contests—particularly Iowa and New Hampshire. And with a wealth of candidates scrapping for an edge, this year's Republican freshmen are getting showered with attention from White House hopefuls looking to make connections with local donors and activists.
"When you go to Washington as a freshman, you're rank-and-file and there's somewhat of an attitude of, 'Get in the back bleacher, there. You know the town is run based on seniority,'" Blum said in a phone interview from his home district. "And then when you come back here, you're hanging out with presidential candidates—potentially the next president of the United States."