A recent poll in the state of Iowa shows Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley in the closest race the senator has seen in more than 40 years in the Senate. His lead over Democrat Mike Franken has narrowed to 3 percentage points with less than a month until Election Day, according to a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.
It appears the Iowa electorate’s longtime support for Grassley has waned, much like that of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.
For the purposes of the coming election, we give Grassley a tepid endorsement, with the knowledge that the Chuck Grassley that Iowans have strongly supported in the past is not the same senator serving the state today. The truly bipartisan, Iowa-first mentality Grassley built his reputation on has been diminished in recent years.
Most disappointing was Grassley’s failure to debunk the fictional storyline of a stolen election at the time of the 2020 presidential election. Instead, Grassley stoked the flames of conspiracy theory by reserving comment until the electoral votes were counted on Dec. 14 before acknowledging President Joe Biden’s completely legitimate election. An early word from Iowa’s trusted senator would have gone a long way to validate the integrity of U.S. elections in the minds of voters.
In 2020, Grassley had a prime opportunity to act with the integrity that Iowans had come to expect from him when it came to filling a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy upon the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, just 42 days before the election. Four years earlier, Grassley, then chairman of the Judiciary Committee, refused to hold confirmation hearings on Merrick Garland for a Supreme Court seat when the election was still eight months away. In 2020, Grassley did just the opposite of what he said he believed was the right thing to do in 2016 with the explanation, “The American people’s voices in the most recent election couldn’t be clearer. While there was ambiguity about the American people’s will for the direction of the Supreme Court in 2016 under a divided government, there is no such ambiguity in 2020.”
The about-face from Iowa’s steadfast senior senator was grossly disappointing.
Grassley crossed party lines to support the infrastructure bill, something that earned him a degree of grief from his own party. But despite supporting that bill, Grassley is quick to cast blame on Democrats for nearly everything going on in Washington. As for inflation, Grassley says it is the Biden administration moving forward in a partisan way that is to blame, not other factors — even though inflation is even higher in the European Union than it is in the U.S.
Still, it is impossible to discount the political clout Grassley carries. The breadth of his experience makes him an effective legislator on behalf of the state. Heading into another farm bill, Grassley can be counted to do right by Iowa farmers. Likewise, if anyone can champion the need for returning air service to Dubuque, it’s Grassley.
Franken, a retired three-star vice admiral, brings a wealth of foreign relations knowledge and along with his military leadership combine to make him a worthy candidate. His professional studies include time at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Darden School of Business and Brookings Institute.
While he’s new to the world of politics and legislating, he’s not without Washington experience. Franken worked on U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s staff where he oversaw infrastructure and environmental compliance issues and was involved in policy making and strategy for the U.S. Department of Defense. As chief of legislative affairs for the Navy, he ran a budget of $150 billion. Still, Iowa would be trading in Grassley’s clout for a senator at the lowest rung.
Though he’s not held political office, Franken has mastered the politician’s gift of gab — something he would do well to moderate. His bluntness and seemingly off-the-cuff remarks repeatedly have garnered criticism and, in some cases, have overshadowed the points he was trying to make. While he has a good grasp of the issues, discussion with Franken can veer from the substantive to typical Democratic talking points.
Franken’s black-and-white perspective on many issues — some of which have plenty of gray to them — make it seem unlikely that he will help bring bipartisanship to a U.S. Congress that desperately needs it. While Grassley has become more partisan over time, as evidenced by the Georgetown University ratings that he himself touts, he remained the 12th-most bipartisan senator in last year’s session by that measure.
Ultimately, Grassley has been effective in office. He chaired the committee that passed Part D Medicare coverage of prescription drugs and continues to work on lowering drug prices. The fact that hearing aids are available over-the-counter as of this week is owing to Grassley legislation. He was ahead of the curve as the author of the wind energy tax credit. He seeks to expand Pell grants for trade certificate programs. And he continues to be vigilant in his commitment to watchdog spending.
While Grassley has not always shown the tenacity of his earlier terms of offices, his powerful voice continues to benefit Iowa.