After months of deliberation, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley announced early Friday morning he will run for reelection in 2022 – a decision Republicans believe will give them their best chance to hold onto the coveted Senate seat.
Grassley, 88, released the highly anticipated news in characteristically understated fashion, posting to Twitter with little additional fanfare.
"It's 4 a.m. in Iowa so I'm running," he said in the predawn announcement. "I do that 6 days a week. Before I start the day I want you to know what Barbara and I have decided. I'm running for re-election – a lot more to do, for Iowa. We ask and will work for your support."
Grassley has kept the political world in suspense for the better part of a year, keeping quiet about his intentions as he weighed the choice privately. Grassley previously told the Des Moines Register it was "one of the little things I pray about" on his solo, early-morning jogs.
"I sometimes feel either way I make a decision, there will be some regret sometime down the road," he said.
According to a news release, Grassley will hold a series of public events Friday in Marion, Pleasant Valley, Dyersville and Waterloo. He also will join Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in Des Moines Saturday at her annual Harvest Festival fundraiser.
“Serving Iowans in the United States Senate is a tremendous honor," Grassley said in a statement. "I’m working as hard as ever for the people of Iowa and there’s more work to do. In a time of crisis and polarization, Iowa needs strong, effective leadership. I’m focused on serving the people of Iowa as your senator and fighting for policies that will make Iowa an even better place to raise a family and grow a business."
His decision is a victory for national Republicans who have made it clear they wanted Grassley – who has repeatedly been reelected by double-digit margins – to run for an eighth term. A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll released this week showed him leading Democratic challenger Abby Finkenauer by 18 percentage points, 55% to 37%, in an early test of the race.
Every seat will matter on Election Day 2022 as Republicans seek to break Democrats’ razor-thin control of the U.S. Senate. The chamber is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote for Democrats.
Grassley's announcement comes after a wave of other incumbent Republican senators have announced their retirements, complicating the party's 2022 map. They include Roy Blunt of Missouri, Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Richard Selby of Alabama.
Grassley is not expected to face a serious primary challenge, though Republican state Sen. Jim Carlin has announced a campaign.
Finkeanuer is the best-known Democrat to enter the race after announcing her campaign in July. Two other high-profile Democrats — U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne and state Auditor Rob Sand — have ruled out Senate runs. But retired Navy Admiral Mike Franken, who lost his 2020 Senate primary, is considering entering the race.
According to the Register's September Iowa Poll, 51% of Iowans have a favorable view of Grassley, 37% have an unfavorable view of him, and 12% are not sure.
Among Republicans, 81% rate him favorably, but just 14% of Democrats do.
That’s a “strong” number, pollster J. Ann Selzer said. But it falls short of the 90% favorability mark Republicans give to Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in the same poll.
Grassley's longevity seen as a strength and a weakness
Although Grassley enters the race in a strong position, he's not without weaknesses.
Historically, Grassley's approval ratings have been among some of the highest in the state — even hitting the 80% threshold on occasion. But today, his approval rating is at one of its lowest points ever.
According to the Register's Iowa Poll, 47% of Iowans approve of the job he's doing, another 40% disapprove and 13% are not sure.
In interviews with poll respondents and event attendees across the state, Iowans say they remain fond of Grassley but worry he's been in office for too long.
He was first elected to the Iowa Legislature in 1958 at the age of 23, and he's held elected office continuously ever since. He was elected to his first term in the U.S. Senate in 1980. Today, he is 88 years old and would be 95 at the end of another term.
Paula Crow, a registered Republican from Centerville who responded to the Register's June Iowa Poll, said she likes that Grassley stands up to “the left” and thinks he handled the pandemic well. But she would like to see a different Republican take his seat.
"So far, I agree with his policies as a Republican, and I agree with the things he is doing so far,” she said. “But my reasoning for thinking we should have someone new is: I believe there should be terms and limits for how long they should be able to serve in the Senate."
Finkenauer already has cast his longevity as a handicap, tweeting recently that Grassley has been in office since Dwight D. Eisenhower was president.
"13 different presidents – 7 Republicans, 6 Democrats. Chuck Grassley has been a politician the whole time. And where has that gotten us, Iowa?" she said.
Others, though, say Grassley's longevity is a boon for the state, giving Iowa outsize influence in Congress.
When Republicans held control of the Senate, Grassley became president pro tempore, putting him third in line to the presidency. He presided over Supreme Court battles as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he led the powerful Senate Finance Committee. If Republicans regain control, he would likely resume leadership of the Judiciary Committee, where he is currently the top-ranking Republican.
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