The Republican senator has been in office continuously in Iowa since — wait for it — 1959. (He’s currently 87 years old.) And he was elected to the Senate in 1980, which makes him the second-longest-tenured senator behind only Democrat Pat Leahy of Vermont, who was elected to the chamber in 1974.
What’s as remarkable as his long run in office is how popular he has remained among Iowa voters — a notoriously fickle bunch — over all that time. Aside from the 54% he received in his first Senate race in 1980, Grassley’s winning percentage has never dipped below 60%(!) in six subsequent reelection races.
So dominant a figure in Iowa politics had Grassley been that Democrats nationally have stopped seriously challenging him in his last few reelection races despite the overall swing-y nature of the state.
And it’s not just disgruntled Democrats fueling Grassley’s weak reelection number in the new Register poll. More than 1 in 3 (37%) of self-identified Republicans say they are ready for someone other than Grassley. Which is a big number. Also worth noting: Almost 7 in 10 (68%) of politically crucial independents want someone else other than Grassley too.
Now, before we go any further, it’s worth noting that a poll question like this one isn’t a perfect predictor of Grassley’s chances if he runs again next year. When you ask people whether they want Grassley or “someone else,” you are comparing a known quantity with all his warts to an ideal candidate. The “someone else” for Democrats is almost certainly a Democrat. The “someone else” for many Republicans may well be a younger and more Trump-y candidate.
But no matter who that ideal candidate is for any particular Iowan, it’s certain that that candidate doesn’t actually exist. Every actual candidate has weaknesses (and strengths) that a voter would have to asses vis a vis Grassley.
So, when you match up a longtime incumbent against “someone else,” the latter nearly always “wins.” The actual candidate Democrats (or Republicans) would field against Grassley would not be beating the incumbent with 64% of the vote.
All that said, these numbers are NOT what Grassley and his political team want to see. They suggest there has been a considerable softening toward him across a variety of groups. And the numbers among Republicans could well entice a more-MAGA candidate to take a look at a primary challenge to the incumbent.
These numbers will stoke that worry in Grassley — and will at least be a factor as he decides his political future this fall.