A poll sponsored by U.S. Rep. Rod Blum shows the Iowa Republican is “comfortably poised” to win re-election in the Nov. 8 general elections.

The poll of 400 likely voters in the 20-county Northeast Iowa First Congressional District shows the freshman Republican with a 12-point advantage over his Democratic challengers.

The automated telephone survey, conducted March 16-17 by The Polling Company Inc. on behalf of Blum’s campaign, found Blum leading former Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy, of Dubuque, 45 percent to 33 percent. Blum, owner of a Dubuque software firm, also led former Cedar Rapids City Council Member Monica Vernon by a margin of 43 percent to 31 percent.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Additionally, 43 percent of respondents approved of Blum’s performance in Congress compared to 27 percent who disapproved.

“Voters are responding to my work in Washington where I am trying to reform Congress itself, enact term limits, balance the budget, protect our borders and reignite our lackluster economy,” Blum said in a press release.

However, political observers like the nonpartisan Cook Political Report and Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report have dubbed the race a toss-up or trending Democratic.

Despite the double-digit lead, both the Murphy and Vernon campaigns argue the numbers show Blum is vulnerable.

“I think it’s underwhelming that a Congressman who wasted more taxpayer dollars on glossy campaign-like mailers than any other member of Congress … is still well below 50 percent,” Vernon’s Campaign Manager Michelle Gajewski wrote in an email to TH Media.

According to documents obtained by TH Media, Blum spent more on taxpayer-funded mass mailings in the first three quarters of 2015 than any of his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Blum recently announced he is returning about $102,000 of his unspent 2015 office budget to the U.S. Treasury to help pay down the nation’s $19 trillion debt. However, he would not say whether he gave half of his taxpayer-funded salary to charity — something his campaign website pledged he would do once elected.

“I think folks are onto Congressman Blum, that he will say one thing in an election year, with no actual intention of following through on it,” Murphy’s Campaign Manager Mike McLaughlin said. “Pat has a long record … of getting done the things he said he would get done, increasing the minimum wage, increasing teacher pay, protecting women’s health, expanding children’s health care and preschool, and protecting the environment.”

In an email to TH Media, Blum wrote the poll results might surprise some in Washington, D.C., but confirm what he can “see and hear on the ground” in northeast Iowa.

“... People from all walks of life are responding to my work helping constituents in the district, cleaning up Congress, enacting term limits and reigniting our economy so working families can prosper,” Blum wrote.

A Stone Research Services poll conducted in November showed Murphy losing to Blum 45 percent to 42 percent, but faring better than Vernon. The poll was sponsored by an Iowa offshoot of a transportation labor union representing active and retired railroad, bus and mass transit workers.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

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