Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley calls for federal prosecutor to probe botched FBI Nassar investigation Woman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing MORE (R-Iowa) is going all in for Iowa Republicans this cycle.
The Hawkeye State's senior senator has become his party’s go-to surrogate to help in competitive House and Senate races. And that influence has only been burnished after he was derided by the Democratic Senate nominee as a “farmer from Iowa” — a key turning point in the razor-tight contest.
Just this week, Grassley appeared in an ad boosting his former chief of staff, House candidate David Young (R), in one of the most competitive contests in the country for retiring Rep. Tom Latham’s (R) seat.
He also cut a spot to help state Sen. Joni Ernst's (R) Senate bid for retiring Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinFCC needs to help services for the deaf catch up to videoconferencing tech Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Ex-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa MORE’s (D) seat . Grassley has also been all over the state barnstorming for local candidates.
The senior senator is just getting started, with a planned marathon across Iowa to help candidates up and down the ticket, starting with a Saturday Lincoln Day dinner in Blackhawk County where he’ll be appearing alongside Ernst.
“I'm going to be pretty liberally scheduled to help people between now and Nov. 4," Grassley told The Hill.
The longtime senator, first elected in 1980, isn’t slowing down — literally. He celebrated his 81st birthday this week with a six-mile run, dubbed "Home to Dome."
“I run three miles four times a week anyways. Running six miles once a year isn't a really big deal, though it's pretty difficult to get up Capitol Hill after about three miles,” he said nonchalantly.
That energy carries over to the campaign trail, Republicans say, and could be valuable in their most hotly contested races.
“When it gets to be campaign season he just never stops, he just does not take a break from helping people and helping fellow Republicans,” said Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann.
The GOP chairman noted that in his own first bid for local office a decade ago, Grassley came to his very first fundraiser.
“I don't think I've gone a week in the last two months without seeing him at a campaign event,” Kaufmann said.
Grassley says he and his wife are always involved helping candidates in the state, but that this election, because of the competitive Senate race and open House seats, he's been focused even more on congressional races.
He spent the last weekend, a rare time he didn't return to Iowa, helping to fundraise for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Together with Latham, he's also filmed an ad for the National Republican Congressional Committee touting Young’s qualifications, and cut a separate ad for the Chamber of Commerce singing Ernst’s praises. Both began running on Iowa TV this week.
He’s personally invested in both campaigns. Young is a protege, and Grassley became surprisingly integral to the Senate race when Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyThe Memo: Trump attacks on Harris risk backfiring 2020 caucuses pose biggest challenge yet for Iowa's top pollster OPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP MORE (D-Iowa) was caught on video attacking him as a “farmer from Iowa” without a law degree and questioning his credentials to lead the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Grassley said he and Young didn’t have a “boozing buddy relationship” but were close.
“I tell my staff two to three times a year they're just like family, they're the people closest to you, and David Young would fall into that category,” he said. “He’s been a very good person. … And he does understand Iowa and he was also a good administrator who had a good political head on him.”
Grassley downplayed any personal issues with Braley stemming from his comments, instead focusing on Ernst’s qualifications to be in the Senate and his desire to see a Republican-controlled Senate. If that happens he'd become Judiciary Committee chairman.
“I think the public reaction and the journalistic reaction to what he said speaks for itself. I haven't said much about it because he immediately apologized to me face to face. When he did that, I wasn't well aware exactly what he said. He gave me a rough idea, and then two days later sent a letter, and as far as I'm concerned that was the end of it,” Grassley said.
“I’ve not had many problems with him. We don't vote alike or think alike but every time we've had a personal discussion … it's been very friendly,” he continued.
But his lot is all in with Ernst, calling her “very common-sense, very down-to-earth.”
“Obviously it's about Republican control of the Senate but my motivation in support of Joni is about her qualifications. She'd be the first female combat veteran in the U.S. Senate. She's a good senator,” he said. “She's a leader and she's what we need in the United States Senate and because she's from fairly rural southwest Iowa, she understands grassroots Iowans.”
Both Ernst and Young frequently invoke Grassley on the campaign trail.
“I can hit the ground running. If you want to know what kind of person I am, call Chuck Grassley,” Young said in a debate last week.
“Sen. Grassley, who is ‘just a farmer,’ a very brilliant one, he has told me there's nothing I won't do to get you elected,” Ernst told a group of Iowa farmers last weekend. “He said 'I've had my vote canceled out for 30 years now.' He needs a partner in the United States Senate and I am going to be that partner for Sen. Chuck Grassley.”
He also remains the most popular Republican in the perennial swing state.
Grassley won his last election with 64 percent of the vote. A May poll from Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling found his favorability rating at 51 percent with 30 percent disapproving, and earlier polls have found him in even better position. According to a GOP poll obtained by The Hill, in the 3rd District race where Young is pitted against former state Sen. Staci Appel (D), Grassley’s approval rating is at 61 percent, with just 24 percent disapproving.
“I can't think of a county, even a precinct, in this state where I'd hesitate to send Sen. Grassley. I was just with him in Johnson County which is heavily Democratic,” Kaufmann said.