IA-Sen: Grassley Embarrasses Majority of Iowans; Less Than Half Would Re-Elect

{Originally posted at my blog Senate Guru.}

New polling by Research 2000 finds that Republican Chuck Grassley is far more vulnerable than the conventional wisdom gives him (dis)credit for.

When asked if Grassley should be re-elected, only 42% said re-elect, while 31% said it was time for someone new, and 27% were not sure.  (Remember, being unsure about an incumbent of twenty-nine years bodes poorly for the incumbent.)  Among independents, only 39% said re-elect.  Not too hot.

The money question of the poll was:

When Senator Chuck Grassley says President Obama and Democrats would QUOTE “pull the plug on grandma” UNQUOTE do you think that does Iowa proud in Congress or embarrasses Iowa?

By more than a 2-to-1 margin (53% to 26%), Iowans responded that Grassley’s comments embarrassed them rather than made them proud.  Among independents, the embarrass-proud ratio was an overwhelming 61-21.  Research 2000 broke down the responses by Congressional district.  Outside of right-wing radical Steve King’s 5th Congressional district (which saw a 30-51 embarrass-proud ratio), every other district was overwhelmingly embarrassed by Grassley’s remarks.  The other four Congressional districts ranged from 53-64% embarrassed while only 19-24% proud.

Very interestingly, while only 35% of respondents favored the Senate version of the health care reform bill, while 56% opposed it, 62% of respondents favored a public option (a 2-to-1 margin over the 31% of respondents that opposed a public option); and, moreover, by more than a 3-to-1 margin, Iowans want Democratic Senator Tom Harkin to fight harder for a public option and would respect him more if he did.

The message from these numbers is clear: Iowans are open to voting for an alternative to Republican Chuck Grassley, would support a public option (and many who opposed health care reform in Iowa simply feel that it didn’t go far enough), and were embarrassed by Grassley’s dishonest kowtowing to the teabaggers with his “pull the plug on grandma” routine.

The Iowa Independent reminds us:

The “pull the plug on grandma” statement, which was part of the death panel meme Pulitzer Prize winning Web site PolitiFact named its “Lie of the Year,” dogged Grassley throughout the last few months of 2009 and was cited by at least one of the three Democrats vying to unseat him as the reason for entering the race.

Grassley’s own numbers must be telling him that his lies could constitute a politically fatal flub given how freaked out he got over the discussion of his comments and how he tripped over himself backpedaling:

By the end of the year, though, Grassley was blaming media reports for his association with the death panels meme. In a letter to a constituent forwarded to The Iowa Independent, Grassley said some “commentators” took his comments and twisted them as saying that health care reform would establish death panels.

“I said no such thing,” Grassley said. “As I said then, putting end-of-life consultations alongside cost containment and government-run health care causes legitimate concern.”

Who was that Democrat who cited Grassley’s comments as a reason for entering the race?  Attorney and Democratic former gubernatorial nominee Roxanne Conlin.  She got into the race in late 2009, so this past quarter’s fundraising report will be the first test of her campaign’s financial viability.  Word is, she’s a fairly prodigious fundraiser.

On top of that, Grassley has handed her the issue and according message frames on which to run.  Notably to me, Conlin has five grandchildren.  In other words, she is a grandma.  I think it would be powerfully resonant for Conlin to put out an ad highlighting Grassley’s “pull the plug on grandma” comments that embarrassed a majority of Iowans and to close the ad (while talking to the camera, surrounded by her five grandchildren) with the line, “I’m Roxanne Conlin, and I approved this message because I’m a grandma and I’m embarrassed that Chuck Grassley is talking about pulling the plug on me.”

Keep a close eye on IA-Sen; I’m expecting a competitive race that will surprise the traditional media.

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Look how Grassley repays Obama's compliments (updated)

At yesterday’s town-hall meeting in New Hampshire, President Barack Obama had nice things to say about Senator Chuck Grassley:

“Now, I think that there are some of my Republican friends on Capitol Hill who are sincerely trying to figure out if they can find a health care bill that works – Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Olympia Snowe from Maine have been – yes, I got to admit I like Olympia, too. They are diligently working to see if they can come up with a plan that could get both Republican and Democratic support.”

In addition, Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register noticed that Organizing for America is not mobilizing Obama’s supporters to show up at Grassley’s town-hall meetings in Iowa. Instead, Organizing for America is trying to drive turnout to events hosted by Iowa’s Democrats in Congress.

Grassley’s holding four public events today, and @iahealthreform is helpfully liveblogging them on Twitter. Look at how Grassley talks about health care reform and tell me whether Obama should praise Grassley’s efforts.

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