CEDAR RAPIDS — Sen. Chuck Grassley is looking for Ronald Reagan in the field of GOP presidential hopefuls.
So far, he hasn’t found him.
Iowa’s senior senator doesn’t think he’s alone in being undecided which of more than a dozen candidates he’d like to see on the ballot in 2016.
“I’ll bet if you interviewed me a month or two months ago I would have said something like, ‘I don’t find very many Republicans who are activists and caucusgoers lining up behind somebody,’” he said during a conference call with Iowa reporters Wednesday.
He estimates that 90 percent of likely caucusgoers — including himself — haven’t made up their minds, even if they have identified a first choice. He’s aware that about 50 percent of likely caucusgoers have told pollsters they want either Ben Carson or Donald Trump, but he thinks even people who have identified a first choice might change their minds before the Feb. 1 caucuses.
Grassley pointed out that between October 2011 and the 2012 caucuses, four different Republicans led the field, and none of them was former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, the eventual caucus winner.
“They’re still kind of feeling the product … to find out if I like this one or that one,” Grassley said.
He expects the Republican Party of Iowa’s Growth and Opportunity Party Oct. 31 will help make up some minds. Ten of the GOP hopefuls — Carly Fiorina, Sen. Rick Santorum, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Gov. Mike Huckabee — have confirmed they will participate.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
The candidates will meet with Iowa Republicans from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Varied Industries Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.
“The event Saturday will start people making up their minds much faster,” Grassley speculated.
The event will have the same significance as the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Dinner last week, Grassley said.
“It’s bringing attention to the final, closing weeks of the caucuses,” he said. “I think it will cause people to focus more.”
Wherever he goes, Grassley said, people “always want the latest on Iowa, and I honestly tell them that if I knew who I wanted to be our candidate I wouldn’t tell you. But I don’t know who I want that candidate to be and I’m still doing like everyone else, listening to all of them, and maybe by January I’ll have my mind made up.”
Even when he makes up his mind, Grassley doesn’t plan to endorse a candidate before the caucuses.
He’s looking for a candidate who is a good administrator, a leader, who limits himself or herself to four or five big issues, “somebody who sees the big picture (and) doesn’t get down in the weeds.”
“I’m kind of defining a Ronald Reagan,” Grassley said. “I don’t know who fits into that at this point.”