Government

Though not on ballot, Grassley logging miles on campaign trail

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig (from left), Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Rod Blum laugh as Grassley joked about singing in church following a Thursday tour at Diamond V in Cedar Rapids. Grassley is not on the Tuesday ballot but has been appearing throughout the state on behalf of fellow Republicans who are. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig (from left), Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Rod Blum laugh as Grassley joked about singing in church following a Thursday tour at Diamond V in Cedar Rapids. Grassley is not on the Tuesday ballot but has been appearing throughout the state on behalf of fellow Republicans who are. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Although his name isn’t on the ballot this year, seven-term Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley has been spending plenty of time on the campaign trail.

His social media pages are filled with pictures of him campaigning around the state with candidates from the top of the ticket down to county races.

Over the past three weeks, Grassley has campaigned not only with Gov. Kim Reynolds and her running mate, Acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, but with 1st District Rep. Rod Blum, 2nd District challenger Chris Peters, 3rd District Rep. David Young, state Auditor Mary Mosiman, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, and Treasurer candidate Jeremy Davis.

He’s also been on the campaign trail with at least 11 state legislative candidates and a county supervisor.

Reynolds, who is running statewide for the first time at the top of the ticket, welcomes Grassley’s support and presence on the campaign trail.

“That guy is a machine. I feel like I go 24/7, but he never stops,” she said,

Having run and won 18 elections, including seven statewide contests, Grassley is “like a legend,” especially among Iowa Republicans, Reynolds said. “Everyone loves him.”

At a Black Hawk County event, Grassley unexpectedly showed up, she said, noting, “They jumped to their feet and clapped for like five minutes.”

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Voters like to see the “team,” she says, referring to the appearances with Grassley and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, also a Republican.

Reynolds said she likes to campaign with them because they open doors.

“You always want to take advantage of people who have a different sphere of friends,” she said. “So it certainly doesn’t hurt to have him campaigning.”

Hubbell has been getting help from Iowa surrogates, too. Former Gov. Tom Vilsack and his wife, Christie, and former Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson have been making campaign appearances for Hubbell and other Democrats around the state.

Grassley said what he’s seeing on the campaign trail makes him optimistic about the Tuesday returns. He’s seen an increase in GOP enthusiasm that he attributes to the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

“It seems like we have reached the same level of enthusiasm that the Democrats have had for a year. The battle cry for the election should be ‘Remember Kavanaugh,’ ” said Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee that held the Kavanaugh hearings.

That doesn’t mean the election will be a slam dunk for Republicans.

“I think the governor’s is a close race,” Grassley said. “You kind of get the feeling it’s within the margin of error one way or the other, and I’m not sure which one way or the other it is.”

Reynolds will win because she’s seen as being “in touch with all of Iowa” in a way that “a person born with a silver spoon in his mouth and living in Polk County isn’t as connected,” Grassley said. “I think people appreciate that” about Reynolds, he said.

Grassley lives in the 4th District, but represented a small part of what is now in the 1st District in the mid- to late-1970s. He thinks Blum will be elected to a third term, but that, too, “is still a close race.”

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Polling has shown everything from a 4 percentage point lead for the Dubuque businessman to a 15-point advantage for his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Abby Finkenauer, also of Dubuque.

Grassley attributed Blum’s improved chances to his “low-key approach, his steadiness,” as well as an opponent who, he said, has not demonstrated maturity or depth in her debate appearances.

“Blum is showing the Democrats are wrong when they show him as the No. 1 target,” Grassley said. “What they don’t realize is what this guy does in the period of time you aren’t in the election season. He’s around meeting with people the way elected reps ought to do, in a very quiet way keeping up on what’s going on and understanding the people.

“This is a race, I hope you know,” he said. “They wrote it off two months ago. This is the biggest shock in Washington that he’s above his opponent.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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