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Grassley Hits The Campaign Trail In Effort To Win An 8th Term In The U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley talks with supporters at a campaign stop at a Dairy Queen in Dyersville on September 24. The 88 year old Republican has announced he is running for his eighth term in the Senate.
Kate Payne
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley talks with supporters at a campaign stop at a Dairy Queen in Dyersville Friday. The 88-year-old Republican has announced he is running for his eighth term in the Senate.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley hit the ground running on his re-election campaign Friday, after firing off a predawn tweet announcing that he would be vying for an eighth term in the United States Senate. The 88-year-old Republican says he intends to serve the full six year term if elected, saying he still feels he has more work to do.

Meeting with supporters outside the Dairy Queen in Dyersville Friday afternoon, Grassley apparently didn’t feel the need to give a stump speech. Instead, he went straight to the questions, many of which focused on immigration and the need for more workers in the state.

Answering questions from reporters, Grassley said this is one of the few cycles he’s had “any doubt whatsoever” about whether to run or not. After giving it “considerable thought”, talking with his wife and family and hearing from voters, he says he’s committed to going back to D.C.

“It just seems like there's a lot of problems our country faces,” Grassley said. “The prescription drug issue. Or the cattle feeder problems that we have in Iowa, getting a fair market for our cattle feeders. And then the crisis at the border. The crisis with inflation that's on us now and could get worse. And the way Afghanistan was handled and all those things.”

At 88 years old, the Republican from New Hartford has held elected office for more than six decades, first in the Iowa House and U.S. House, before serving 40 years in the U.S. Senate.

Grassley made his campaign announcement Friday via tweet, adding a gif of himself on a morning run, a jog he says he does six days a week. In addition to Dyersville, Grassley also made stops in Marion, Pleasant Valley and Waterloo on Friday.

Grassley’s decision to run for reelection puts to rest speculation among both Republicans and Democrats, at a time when both parties are eager to wrest control in the equally divided Senate.

His decision may have implications for candidates in both parties. First District Congresswomen Ashley Hinson, whose name had been raised as a potential successor if Grassley retired, told reporters Friday she's "thrilled" about his decision and she anticipates "a long time serving alongside Sen. Grassley as partners for Iowa".

An incumbent who in past cycles has been described as “untouchable” and has won reelection with double digit margins, recent polling indicates Grassley’s approval ratings have dropped considerably. Polling from June indicated that nearly two thirds of Iowans wanted someone new in the seat.

Still, the latest Des Moines Register / Mediacom Iowa Poll released earlier this month showed Grassley holding a double digit lead in a matchup against former Democratic Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, who is considered his top competitor.

But the percent of Iowans who approve of how Grassley has handled his job remains under 50 percent. Pollster Ann Selzer told the Register that’s a far cry from the “stratospheric” approval ratings he enjoyed earlier in his career.

Grassley, for his part, says he doesn’t “pay much attention” to the polls.

“What I do is I do my job. And I explain how I do my job and the issues we face. That’s what my mind is set on,” Grassley said. “I don’t worry about polls. Right now I’m not even worrying about the next election. I’ll wait until next October or September to worry about that.”

State Rep. Steven Bradley R-Cascade greets Sen. Chuck Grassley during a campaign stop at the Dyersville Dairy Queen.
Kate Payne
State Rep. Steven Bradley greets Sen. Chuck Grassley during a campaign stop at the Dyersville Dairy Queen.

Among many Democrats, Grassley is vilified for helping then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell block the nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court, thereby preventing then-President Barack Obama from filling a vacancy on the high court.

At the time, Grassley chaired the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, where he oversaw the confirmations of hundreds of federal judges, helping former President Donald Trump reshape the judiciary for decades to come.

For Karen Ertl of Dyersville, who came out to meet Grassley at the Dairy Queen on Friday, his role in shaping the court system and his seniority in the Senate is something she values.

“I think he's always had his eye on the big picture. When it's been Supreme Court, judicial decisions and those kinds of…his involvement in those committees,” Ertl said. “I think he handles the job.”

Ertl says she has supported Grassley in past cycles and intends to again. When asked about whether Grassley’s age concerned her, Ertl said she’s impressed by the senator’s stamina, mentioning that her own parents had passed away at the age of 86.

“I don't know how he has the energy to do what he's doing. I admire anybody that can, because with my parents both dying at 86, to be in that kind of health is a big deal,” Ertl said.

“I think you need to be sharp. But he seems like he is,” she added. “I also know that there's people that live well into their 90s and into their 100s now, is not uncommon. And if you've got the ability, live to your full potential, you know?”

Finkenauer, one of Grassley’s Democratic challengers, has sought to characterize his long tenure in elected office as a liability.

“After 47 years in Washington, D.C., Chuck Grassley has changed from an Iowa farmer to just another coastal elite,” Finkenauer said in a written statement. “Over his nearly five decades in Congress, Iowa has lost over 30,000 family farms, our jobs have been shipped overseas, and decade after decade our rural communities have been hollowed out with our young people leaving in droves as he stood on the sideline. Meanwhile, Senator Grassley and his friends in the DC elite got richer while working families were left behind.”

Two other Democrats — former Crawford County Supervisor Dave Muhlbauer and Minden City Councilmember Glenn Hurst — have also announced campaigns for Senate. Republican state Sen. Jim Carlin announced earlier this year he would run for Senate regardless of Grassley's plans.

Still, Grassley is considered Republicans’ best chance at holding on to the seat in their push to take back control of the Senate.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter