Iowa Senator Charles Grassley has been serving the people of his state in one office or another since 1959. He was a state representative from 1959 to 1975, represented his district in Congress from 1975 to 1981, and has served since then as senator.
The 87-year old Grassley is contemplating one more Senate run in 2022. He has routinely racked up 60-70 percent of the vote in every election he’s ever run. He is more than a political icon in Iowa. He is loved by his supporters and respected by his opponents.
But he may be in trouble if he seeks another term.
He never appeared to have caught the presidential bug that infects so many senators. He was content being in the Senate–boosting agricultural subsidies and opening markets for Iowa farmers. But his low-key and “make no enemies” approach is out of touch with today’s politicians. A state of war does not abide peacemakers, and Grassley’s constituents’ thirst for combat.
A sizable majority of Iowans want someone new.
Grassley has not yet said whether he will seek an eighth term in 2022. If he does, political analysts expect his near-universal name recognition and deep ties to the state would still make him the early favorite to win. But the new Iowa Poll appears to show an underlying feeling among Republicans and Democrats alike that he’s served long enough.
Nearly two-thirds of likely voters, or 64%, say they think it’s time for someone new to hold Grassley’s seat. Twenty-seven percent say they would reelect Grassley.
That includes a sizable share of Republican likely voters, 37% of whom say they’re ready for someone else. Eighty-nine percent of Democrats and 68% of independents say they’re ready for someone new.
“Chuck Grassley has had a long and mostly good run, but most Iowa voters appear ready to move on, and his ratings reflect waning interest,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., the company that conducted the poll.
Of course, elections are about choices, and without someone opposing him, it’s impossible to say how much of that opposition is real and how much is fluff. Still, Grassley is seeing the same numbers and it must be forcing him to think hard about making another effort at age 87.
Grassley has said he will announce his decision sometime this fall, likely in September, October or November. If Grassley were to retire, it would likely trigger a competitive primary drawing from every segment of the Republican Party’s political spectrum. It would also likely embolden Democrats hesitant to run against Grassley.
So far, farmer and former Crawford County supervisor Dave Muhlbauer is the only Democrat to have announced a run for the Senate, though others have expressed interest. State Sen. Jim Carlin, a Republican, has said he will run — and primary Grassley if necessary.
If he does run, Grassley likely would remain a formidable candidate.
Another warning sign for Grassley could be his tepid support for Donald Trump. His potential opponent, Iowa state Sen. Jim Carlin, supported efforts to overturn the election, which no doubt endeared him to the former president. Grassley remained fairly quiet during Trump’s impeachment but said Trump needed to “take responsibility for his actions.” He did not vote to convict Trump in either impeachment trial.
Trump could easily throw his support to Carlin, or some other MAGA candidate, over Grassley in the primary — especially if it looks like Grassley would be in trouble in the general election. But what was once looking like an easy GOP hold in Iowa might turn into a nail-biter.