Don't bet on Chuck Grassley retiring

Five U.S. Senate Republicans have confirmed they won’t seek re-election in 2022. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama reported no individual or political action committee contributions during the first six months of 2021. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania reported $365 in total contributions during the same period. Rob Portman of Ohio–$23,635.83. Richard Burr of North Carolina–$140,764. Roy Blunt of Missouri–$194,149.74.

In contrast, Iowa’s senior Senator Chuck Grassley–who has served in elective office continuously since 1959–raised $682,379.79 in contributions from January through June, Federal Election Commission filings show. His campaign brought in $354,679.79 from individuals and $327,700 from a long list of PACs. He also transferred $193,811.28 from other committees to his main campaign account, which reported $2,549,206.27 cash on hand as of June 30.

Grassley refunded more campaign contributions ($11,400 in the first quarter, $20,775 in the second) than rival Republican candidate Jim Carlin (a state senator from Sioux City) raised from individuals other than himself. Carlin’s latest FEC disclosure shows his Senate campaign spent more than it brought in from April through June and closed out the second quarter with $8,639.20 cash on hand.

In other words, Grassley is shoo-in for the Republican nomination if he runs for another six-year term. And despite unusually low approval ratings in the latest Iowa Poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register, the incumbent remains well-positioned for re-election.

Asked about the poll findings last month, Grassley noted that 55 percent of respondents said Governor Terry Branstad shouldn’t seek re-election the last time he ran, but Branstad ended up winning by 22 points. That’s true: a Selzer poll from September 2013 found 55 percent said Branstad had been in office long enough, while 35 percent wanted him to run for governor again. Branstad’s job approval was 54 percent in the same poll, and his approval ratings stayed above 50 percent throughout the 2014 election cycle. Iowans are somewhat less supportive of Grassley’s job performance, according to Selzer, but the senator remains in positive territory (45 percent approve/39 percent disapprove).

Iowa’s only declared Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate is Dave Muhlbauer. He reported raising $63,215.09 during the roughly five weeks between his campaign launch and the end of the second quarter. The candidate donated $20,000, and other individuals gave the rest. Muhlbauer’s lean operation spent just $3,106.71, leaving $60,108.38 cash on hand as of June 30. Raising his name ID among a statewide Democratic primary electorate will cost well into six figures.

Several other Democrats are seriously considering running for Senate, including former U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer and retired Admiral Mike Franken (the runner-up from the 2020 IA-Sen primary). EMILY’s List, a leading spender on behalf of pro-choice Democratic women candidates, has named Grassley among their 2022 targets, but would get involved in Iowa’s Senate race only if a woman runs.

UPDATE: Dr. Glenn Hurst recently filed organizational papers with the FEC to run for the Senate seat as a Democrat, but he hasn’t made his campaign official.

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