IA-Sen: Did shambles of a GOP field push Grassley toward seventh term?

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley announced on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program today that he plans to run for re-election again in 2016.

“I like serving Iowans. I enjoy my work. I feel very good about being able to do the job and there’s a lot to accomplish.”

Iowa’s other Senator – 73-year-old Tom Harkin, a Democrat – is currently in his fifth term and no other state has more seniority in the senate. Harkin announced this past January that he would not seek a sixth term in 2014, sparking speculation that would pressure Grassley to retire as well, but Grassley told reporters Harkin’s looming exit had the opposite effect.

“You get a lot done with seniority,” Grassley said. “I think that if Iowa is going to start over two years from now with two very junior senators, that it would hurt Iowa’s opportunity to get things done in the United States Senate.”

I have to wonder whether the race for Harkin’s seat has been weighing on Grassley’s mind. The Iowa GOP has so far produced a cluttered field of Senate candidates with low name recognition. None of the early candidates raised a significant amount of money during the second quarter of the year. The fundraising potential of State Senator Joni Ernst remains to be seen, but she comes across as programmed with her “mother, soldier, and conservative” shtick. Likely candidate Mark Jacobs can self-fund but may be dead in the shark-infested GOP primary waters with his $3,000 contribution to Arlen Specter a few months after Specter gave Democrats their 60th Senate seat. The field is so uninspiring that Bob Vander Plaats of all people is thinking about the race.

If the Iowa GOP can’t field a strong Senate candidate in a midterm election year, where turnout often favors Republicans, how would they do trying to replace Grassley in a presidential year?

Iowa’s senior senator would be 89 years old by the end of his seventh term if re-elected in 2016. Grassley ran six miles on September 17 to mark his 80th birthday this week, and also possibly to pre-empt any questions about his physical health.  

  • Grassley

    When you get to be that age, a lot can happen very quickly, so it’s a long time til 2016. But assuming sen grassley maintains his good health, would/could Dems mount a serious challenge in 2016? I have mixed emotions about Roxanne running last time. No way she ever had a chance but I believe given her stature, she was entitled to the race if she wanted a last hurrah. In 2016, could a hard working legit “name” Iowa democrat have a shot? Could he/she make an issue of age? Maybe you nominate a young but known woman candidate to make the contrast….just spitballing here. Our electorate is changing….maybe such a candidate would have a chance.  

    • Narratives

      You don’t make an issue of age in Iowa in my view.  Fiegen (who will probably run again) did this and came across in poor taste because of it.  Go after 54 years of votes, positions and actual issues.  Simply parroting DSCC and national narratives isn’t enough to knock off someone of Grassley’s stature in my view.  

      Everyone should want Tom Vilsack to run, but we have to wonder whether he will do so.  

      A lot of good State Reps and State Senators could give it a go as well.  There is no guarantee that Grassley will run again either, this is way too far away.  

      • no way will Tom Vilsack run against Grassley

        If it’s an open seat, that’s another question.

      • Age

        I agree that, in a world of reasonable politics, age wouldn’t matter so long as the candidate still has the energy, stamina and enthusiasm for the job. And looked at differently, longevity in office generally has advantages in learning the ropes and moving up the committee structure.

        Politics isn’t reasonable.  The only reason Ganske took out Neal Smith was that he ran on Smith’s tenure and, at least implicity, his age.

        The fact that it worked – and worked well enough to take out one of the most likable and most productive representatives Iowa has ever had — means you aren’t going to get people to take that issue off the table.  If I thought a Ganske-esque campaign would take out Grassley, I’d be all for it. (And in fact, if popular opinion of Congress gets much lower, it just might.)  

        • different situation

          Ganske’s strategy could never have worked if the 1990s map had left either Story or Jasper County in Neal Smith’s district. Even as bad as 1994 was, he only lost to Ganske 52-48.

        • Age

          1994 was a clean the house kind of a year.  Neal Smith just got caught up in the mess.  I think Iowans really embrace incumbency and don’t mind long tenures in office.  

          Other states are different.  They don’t embrace incumbency quite as much.  I still think it is a cheap shot and I don’t like the implication of it with so many people genuinely struggling with dementia.  

          Fiegen took a very abrasive approach to his campaign in many ways and I hope Democrats don’t actually win the seat by doing that.  

          The fact that Tyler Olson is using this line against Branstad may ruin his campaign.  

          • in fairness to Tyler Olson

            so far I have not heard him say that Branstad is senile or too old to be governor. He is saying Branstad has been there too long, and Iowa needs someone with a fresh, new approach.

            • Stagnation and age are conceptually separate

              Indeed.  Branstad wasn’t that great the first time.  And I think it is a fair observation that sometimes you need change.  And really the more I think about it, sometimes age itself really does matter — I still believe Boswell hung on too long and hurt the strength of the bench for that seat (and desmoinesdem’s post about Grassley hanging on is decent evidence for the same effect on the other side of the aisle.)  Similarly, I think it sad that 2 of the 3 candidates to represent an increasingly young part of downtown Des Moines are over 60.  Sometimes you have to hand the reins over the next generation.  All of that, of course, is just part of the mix that also weighs in the balance the benefits of seniority in legislative processes and the experience and knowledge with the issues.  

            • Terms

              He hasn’t yet, but at the same time they are the party of term limits.  We don’t worry about term limits as much, we like to let voters decide whether an individual is still effective.  

              The people who disagree with Branstad or Harkin will say they are stale.  The people who agree with them will say they are doing a great job.  If people want to use age in their campaigns against people they can do so, but they won’t earn my vote by doing that.  

You need to signin or signup to post a comment.