Why one senator sees Gingrich as Trump's best VP choice
© Lauren Schneiderman

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Capitol insurrection hearing exposes Trumpworld delusions MORE (R-Iowa) has come to the conclusion that former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) would be the best vice presidential candidate for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt MORE. In an interview I conducted Monday for KNIA/KRLS radio in Knoxville/Pella, Iowa, Grassley told me that Gingrich would help Trump where he needs help — with policy. Grassley assured me that he has no inside information, but he thinks that Gingrich is an "idea guy," with "lots of original ideas," and that oftentimes even when they aren't his own ideas, he "builds on other people's very flimsy approaches, and fleshes them out." Grassley also told me that most importantly, Gingrich has an "understanding of what Republicans have to be saying to communicate with ordinary Americans."


I've interviewed Grassley once a month for 10 years, and our discussions are wide-ranging. Lately he has been unwavering in his support of Trump, and with his decision as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee to not bring forward for vetting President Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

Grassley is up for reelection this year, and faces what some believe to be a formidable foe in former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D). A June 30 Loras College poll has Grassley leading Judge by only 1 percentage point, with 46 percent to Judge's 45 percent of those polled, with 9 percent undecided.

For Judge, on the positive side, she is also a former nurse, a farmer and has wide name-recognition in the state. She is also a former secretary of agriculture for Iowa. There is a real rural/urban divide in Iowa, and it may be a plus that she is from the rural, southern part of the state where more voters tend to vote Republican. She may be able to court some voters away from Grassley. Perhaps also on the plus side is that — in my opinion — the Democratic leadership in the state under Andy McGuire has increased the party's reach to rural voters. Previous leaders of the party seemed to focus on voters in our larger metropolitan areas and treated the rural communities as an afterthought.

On the downside for Judge, many progressives see her as not progressive enough, and believe that she won the Democratic primary against three more progressive candidates in the race only because they split the vote. It also the perception that she is the candidate of the Eastern Democratic elite, given that she announced her Senate run in March after a trip to Washington, D.C. She was also part of what is largely seen as a lackluster Chet Culver governorship that was elected in 2006 and rejected by Iowans in the election of 2010.

While the Loras poll has the race as close, a Monmouth University poll released Tuesday has Grassley leading by a wider margin, 52 percent to 42 percent.

This would be closer to the six-time senator's normal range of victory, if it proves accurate. Grassley normally crushes his opponents, garnering 64 percent to 70 percent of the votes in elections. His first race was his closest one, where he still earned over 53 percent of the votes of Iowans in 1980.

I also asked Grassley about the Republican National Convention that begins Monday in Cleveland, and on a whim, asked him what to him would be the perfect outcome of the convention. He thought for a moment, and his response is worth quoting:

A conservative platform that Trump will honor and praise, a one ballot roll call where Trump will be nominated, a one ballot roll call where his vice president, whoever that is, is nominated, and then a perfect performance by our nominee.

And I presume that for Grassley, the icing on the cake would be that Newt Gingrich is the VP nominee.

While Grassley told me that he "has no inside information," I learned as I finished writing this that Fox News has suspended its relationship with Gingrich as a contributor because of speculation related to him being on Trump's VP short list.

Maybe they know something we don't.

Leonard is an anthropologist who hosts a public affairs program for KNIA/KRLS News in Knoxville/Pella, Iowa. He is the author of "Yellow Cab," among other works.