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Grassley receives Trump's endorsement while Iowa's Republican leaders embrace the former president

Trump Rally
Thomas Beaumont/AP
People gather ahead of an appearance by former President Donald Trump at a rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa., Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Thomas Beaumont)

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Iowa’s U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley before thousands during a campaign-style rally this weekend at the Iowa state fairgrounds.

“I was born at night, but not last night, so if I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91 percent of Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be that smart. I’m smart enough to accept that endorsement.”

Grassley is referring to an Iowa Poll published in the Des Moines Register that shows 53 percent of Iowans now have a favorable view of the former Republican president. Grassley, who is running for an eighth term in 2022, said in January that there’s “very little opportunity for [Trump] to lead the Republican Party.”

State Senator Jim Carlin of Sioux City, also a Republican, announced he would seek Grassley’s seat regardless of the 88-year-old’s decision.

Trump’s trip to Iowa was the first he’d made since his 2020 campaign. He continued to push false claims that the 2020 election was rigged. He also said Iowa should continue to lead off the presidential nominating calendar with its caucuses. Trump stopped short of saying he would run again in 2024, though he hinted at a potential campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again Again.”

The former president said he would endorse Governor Kim Reynolds, who is up for re-election next year, at some point. Reynolds has not formally announced she’s running for a second full term yet.

“I need you to show up this November,” Governor Reynolds shouted from the stage on Saturday. “I need you to show up next November and I need you to show up in November 2024 and that is how we save America!”

“At this point, given Trump’s hold on the Republican base voter, particularly in red states, candidates like Grassley may not have a choice [but to accept Trump’s endorsement],” Amanda Carpenter, director of Republicans for Voting Rights, told NPR’s Morning Edition. “Unless they really want to pursue a tough hard road ahead in their campaign and make a statement that they disagree with Trump on some things.”

U.S. House Reps. Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks spoke ahead of Trump in addition to the state’s governor and senior U.S. Senator.

Trump’s rally in Iowa was much different from one he had in Perry, Georgia on September 25, when he blasted the state’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp and said he was not conservative enough. The former president talked up a number of handpicked Republican primary challengers for Kemp’s office, and in other races where incumbents were deemed not loyal to his cause.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.