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CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Monday he is unconcerned by the latest polling showing him in what could be his toughest re-election fight in 40 years, and continued to tout his longevity and seniority as an asset.
A new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll released over the weekend shows Grassley with a narrow 3-percentage point lead over Democrat Mike Franken with less than a month to go until the Nov. 8 Election Day. Grassley, 89, is seeking his eighth term in the Senate this year. Franken, 64, is a retired U.S. Navy admiral.
Should the polling numbers hold true, it would be the closest race Grassley has faced since he defeated Democratic incumbent John Culver by 8 percentage points to win his first election to the U.S. Senate in 1980.
“I don’t pay much attention to polls, because you have to work hard to win the votes of Iowans,” Grassley said responding to reporters’ questions during a stop Monday to tour Kirkwood Community College’s Statler Agriculture Sciences Center, which underwent a $10 million renovation last year.
“I love Iowa. I love Iowans,” Grassley said. “I also love serving them in the United States Senate. And the next three weeks of this campaign, just like several months before, you just do as much campaigning as you can and keep in touch with people.”
Grassley touted his seniority, noting that he would be the longest-serving and most senior senator after the election, should he be elected to an eighth term. “If I’m reelected to the United States Senate, I’ll be No. 1 and Iowa will be No. 1,” he said. “And if (Franken) is elected, he’ll be No. 100.”
But while Grassley has portrayed his longevity as an asset, arguing it 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 Iowa Poll, too, suggests independent voters, including those who previously supported Grassley, have gravitated toward Franken, who pulled ahead in the latest fundraising quarter in terms of money raised, but trails three-to-one in terms of cash on hand.
Asked what would he say to those voters who feel he’s become increasingly partisan, Grassley pointed to The Lugar Center and Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy’s non-partisan ranking of how often each member of Congress works across party lines. Grassley noted he’s consistently been ranked in the top 15 of the most bipartisan senators.
He also pointed to the endorsement of Max Baucus, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Montana, who has endorsed Grassley’s re-election. Baucus, who served in the Senate with Grassley for more than 30 years.
In a news release, Baucus said the two would meet weekly over the years they were on the Finance Committee.
“We worked together,” Baucus said in a statement. “Never argued, we looked for solutions. We got them, too. Almost all legislation reported out of our committee was not partisan. Iowans benefit tremendously from Chuck’s character, integrity, and work ethic.”
Baucus left the Senate in 2014 after being appointed ambassador to China by President Barack Obama.
Franken, speaking Saturday with The Gazette at the annual Hawkeye Area Labor Council Steak Fry in Cedar Rapids, called the latest polling proof his campaign’s message of “country over party; people before politics” is resonating with middle-of-the-road voters frustrated by “animosity” in today’s politics and looking for progress, and that Iowa has “in its soul a very purple tint to it.”
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