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.

  • I read the poll differently

    It was in the field more than a month ago, and Grassley’s head to head numbers against the Democrats are still stronger than his re-elect number would suggest.

    What this poll tells me is 1) Grassley irrevocably damaged his image as a straight talker by spreading misinformation about health care reform last year. Most Iowans understand that he wasn’t entirely truthful in his criticisms of the bill.

    2) Democrats should keep the focus on health care and not let Grassley pivot to other issues. He is clearly sensitive about being criticized on health insurance reform, as this Blog for Iowa post shows.

  • Death panel for Grandma

    I work in a nursing home.  And one of my favorite old guys, when I was giving him pills,  started slapping at me, knocking the medicine cup out of my hand, and screaming at me, “Grassley says that you people are trying to kill me!  I saw it on TV!  Help Help,  don’t kill me!”  I wrote an email to Grassley that very day.  I doubt it was due to my email,  but I heard he was walking his comments back right after that.  These people don’t care who they scare or hurt when they do things like that.  They don’t know who is listening and what an impact they will have.  

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