Vilsack stumps in Iowa for Judge's U.S. Senate campaign

'There's a sense of a need to balance things out'

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DES MOINES — Tom Vilsack gave two examples of why Patty Judge can defeat longtime incumbent Chuck Grassley in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race this year: the biblical figure David and himself.

Vilsack, the current U.S. agriculture secretary and former governor of Iowa, spoke Saturday at a fundraiser in Des Moines for Judge’s Senate campaign.

A steady stream of polls on the Senate race have showed Grassley, the Republican and longtime incumbent, with a lead over Judge in the high single digits to low single digits. The latest, from Quinnipiac University this week, showed Grassley leading Judge by 9 percentage points.

Vilsack addressed those polls during his remarks, recalling when he trailed far worse in the polls in his 1998 gubernatorial campaign.

“If at this point in 1998 I had been in Patty Judge’s circumstance, I would have been the happiest guy in the world,” Vilsack joked.

Vilsack gave credit for his turnaround and eventual victory to his wife, Christie; former Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson, who also attended Saturday’s rally; and Hillary Clinton, the then U.S. first lady who held a Washington, D.C., fundraiser for Vilsack’s flagging campaign.

Judge said she remembers campaigning with Vilsack during the final weeks of that 1998 campaign.

“Nobody thought he was going to win,” Judge said.

She said as Vilsack barnstormed the state with a bus tour, daily tracking polls started to incrementally improve and crowds continued to increase in size.

“I think what you take away from that is first of all the race isn’t over. It’s not over until the last day,” Judge said. “And the other thing is that you don’t give up.”

Vilsack also compared Judge versus Grassley to the biblical story of David versus. Goliath — not just because Judge is viewed as an underdog, but because he thinks the story shows how Judge can unseat Grassley, who has served in the Senate since 1981.

“I thought it was a lucky shot and it was sort of this is how underdogs win. But that’s not the story. In fact, it was about a new way of thinking, a new approach to weaponry that this young fella understood that the big guy didn’t,” Vilsack said. “That’s what this race is about. It’s about understanding that impressions, perceptions, polls aren’t really the message here. … This election is about a fella who’s been in public office for 58 years.”

Vilsack accused Grassley of becoming complacent because of his tenure.

“(Among voters) there’s a sense of inequity. There’s a sense of a need to balance things out. And Sen. Grassley is at the heart of many of those issues, both as the judiciary (committee) chair and also on the finance committee,” Vilsack said. “The reality is it’s just not getting done, and he’s a leader. And he’s not doing his job.” 

Grassley campaign manager Robert Haus deflected the suggestion.

“It’s clear Iowans don’t believe these tired, negative attacks from Patty or her D.C. patrons. They know Chuck Grassley works for them, and he’ll keep working for them for the next six years,” Haus said in an emailed statement.

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