116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Sharon McDonald said she has fond memories of Iowa’s longtime senior Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley working across party lines and in concert with his Democratic Senate counterpart, former longtime Iowa U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin.
“They were, you know, yin and yang,” said the 69-year-old retiree from Iowa City. “You never got the feeling that there was vitriol between them. … There wasn’t that animus.”
Flash forward to today, and McDonald said she feels Grassley has become increasingly more partisan and cantankerous. Seventy-year-old Alice Haugen of Iowa City agreed.
“Well, I think the Republican Party has gotten very mean,” Haugen said. “I registered as a Republican when I turned 18, because they were for civil rights, balanced budgets, clean governance, the environment and cautious foreign policy. If they were still doing that, I might still be a Republican, but they haven’t for a while.”
It’s for those reasons the two retirees say they are supporting Democrat Mike Franken in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race. The election is Nov. 8.
“He is a smart, wise, humane person with a sensible approach to things and would bring a lot to offer,” Haugen said of Franken.
The race is garnering national attention and fundraising in the wake of new polling that suggests this could be Grassley’s toughest re-election fight in 40 years. National political forecasts have shifted their ratings in the race away from a “safe” Grassley re-election to “likely.”
Republicans have cast doubt on the results of last week’s Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, casting it as an outlier and suggesting other public and private polling with double-digit advantages for Grassley are closer to reality.
National polling continues to shift in the GOP’s favor, and Democratic President Joe Biden’s approval numbers in the state — while up from July — remain underwater.
Republicans have sought to tie Franken to Biden and portray the 64-year-old retired U.S. Navy admiral from Sioux City as too extreme for the state, with ads showing him praising Biden for doing a “fabulous job.” They have also tried to raise awareness of an allegation by a former staffer who accused Franken of kissing her without her consent. Franken has denied the accusation, and Des Moines police and the Polk County Attorney’s Office determined there was insufficient evidence to pursue an investigation.
Many Iowans, however, see Grassley’s age as a liability. He turned 89 in September and would be 95 at the end of his six-year term if reelected.
While Grassley and his campaign say his experience gives him clout and influence, the latest Iowa poll shows nearly two-thirds of voters see his age as a concern rather than an asset, including a third of those who say they plan to vote for him.
The poll as well showed independent voters, who make up roughly one-third of Iowa’s registered voters, breaking late for Franken. In July, Franken and Grassley were polling nearly neck and neck with independents, but Franken now leads by 8 points.
While experts say Franken faces long odds, longtime Democratic strategist Joe Trippi and former Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones said momentum is building for Franken. The pair campaigned Wednesday with Franken in Iowa City.
”I think this has been one of those candidacies that has built momentum over and over,“ Jones told The Gazette. ”And, now, there’s a wave coming here. You can just feel it out there, where it is not just Democrats. It is Republicans. It is independents that are coming over to support this candidate, because they believe Iowa is ready for a change.”
Jones said the Iowa Poll wasn’t surprising to him. “But, certainly, that should have been a wake-up call for a lot of people of things a lot of us have been saying for a long time — that this race is one of the sleeper races for Democrats around the country. And it is a state we can take back.”
Trippi, who rose to prominence as the campaign manager for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, said he heard the same thing from Iowans while door knocking in Clive before joining Franken in Iowa City.
Grassley campaign manager Michaela Sundermann, in a statement, said Franken “doubles down on his alliance with President Biden and the Biden agenda” by campaigning with Jones, who is ally of the president.
“(R)eminding Iowa voters he would be a rubber stamp for open borders and the Biden economy that’s pushed costs for gas and groceries through the roof,” Sundermann said.
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