If you thought the deteriorating relations between Senator Chuck Grassley and evangelical Christians were just kabuki theater designed to make Grassley look more moderate than he is, maybe you should think again:
Evangelical Christians in Iowa, dominant in the state’s Republican Party, have denied Sen. Charles E. Grassley his request for a place on the state’s delegation to this summer’s Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.
Mr. Grassley may attend the party’s Sept. 1-4 nominating convention in St. Paul, but not as a voting delegate.
With a majority of nine out of 17 members on the Iowa Republican central committee, religious conservatives made Iowa Christian Alliance President Steve Scheffler chairman of Iowa’s 40-member delegation in a vote immediately after their state party convention July 12.[…]
Mr. Grassley had said “yes” when asked by Iowa Republican Chairman Stewart Iverson if he wanted to be a voting delegate to the national convention, Mr. Iverson said.
Political observers in Iowa saw the move against Mr. Grassley as retribution for his having tangled with evangelical pastors in his state. He initiated a Senate Finance Committee investigation of six televangelists for conspicuous personal spending.
“That had nothing to with it at all,” Mr. Scheffler said Sunday. He said Mr. Grassley and the other members of the Iowa congressional delegation already had national convention floor privileges – meaning they could walk the floor but not vote.
Grassley’s office refused to comment when contacted by the Washington Times regarding this story. Staffers quoted in the Des Moines Register today downplayed the significance of what happened:
Beth Pellett Levine, Grassley’s press secretary, said Grassley won’t be a delegate, but he will attend the convention and will have floor access as a federal elected official.
She said Grassley, as well as Iowa’s two Republican congressmen, Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham, will not be delegates “in order to give additional Iowa Republicans the opportunity to participate in the floor proceedings and activities of the national party convention.”
Levine said that Grassley told state party leaders he would be a voting delegate if they wanted, “like he has previously, but the more Iowa Republicans who participate in the event the better, in his view.”
James Carstensen, a spokesman for Latham, said the congressman “never requested to be a voting delegate so as to allow more party activists to participate in the convention.” Aides to King, similarly, said he didn’t want to take a spot away from other delegates.
Columnist Robert Novak wrote on Saturday that “evangelicals and their allies” dominating the state convention in Iowa earlier this month “dumped their critic,” Grassley.
I don’t know how much this is retribution for Grassley’s investigation of the televangelists and how much is just Christian conservatives flexing their muscles after their power grab at the Iowa GOP state convention earlier this month.
Either way, it seems like quite a snub to a five-term U.S. senator, who has held a voting delegate slot at previous national Republican conventions.
The Republican Party doesn’t have superdelegates, so members of Congress do not automatically become voting delegates to the national convention. But you would think the party central committee would show some respect to the Republicans in Iowa’s Congressional delegation.
I don’t think anyone would mistake me for a big fan of Representative Leonard Boswell, but I’d never support denying him a vote at the Democratic national convention in Denver.
That said, I can’t say I’m too unhappy to see Iowa Republican leaders antagonizing Grassley. Maybe he will get irritated enough to retire rather than seek re-election in 2010. After all, Democrats seem poised to pick up at least four seats in the U.S. Senate this November, and perhaps as many as eight or nine.
In case anyone cares, I’ve put the full list of GOP delegates to the national convention after the jump. The two Republican elected statewide officials, Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Auditor David Vaudt, are delegates, as is Polk County Republican chairman and blogger Ted Sporer.