Friday, September 20, 2013

@ChuckGrassley annc 4 7th trm

O. Kay Henderson does a better job than anyone at capturing Chuck Grassley's distinctive Twitter voice. Grassley made headlines twice this week, first for celebrating his 80th birthday with a multi-mile jog to the Capitol, then by surprising pretty much everyone and announcing, three years early, that he's planning to run for re-election to a seventh term in 2016.

Just ten senators have been elected to seven full six year terms. Only five completed the seventh term. (Two more, Orrin Hatch and Pat Leahy, are still in that seventh term, and Joe Biden resigned just days into his to become Vice President.) While Grassley still looks to be a hale and hardy fellow, towing his multiple lawnmowers behind his tractor, it's worth noting that till today, it looked like his most likely successor was his grandson, who just turned the constitutionally required 30 this year.

(Unless this is a Jedi Mind Trick to keep strong candidates of BOTH parties from gearing up, followed by a last minute dropout in favor of Pat. I doubt it, but it's possible.)

I remember when Dick Lugar ran for a seventh term too, just last year. He lost a primary to a hard-right candidate who then lost to the Democrat in November. Granted, Lugar had no-shot presidential ambitions, a Foreign Relations Committee focus, and most damaging, no actual address in Indiana.

Grassley has kept his home fires far better tended and his political antennae far better tuned. It's not for nothing that the national press calls a 99 county Iowa tour "the full Grassley," because he does it every year. How many would-be presidents have met with three people in tiny Adams County just to check off All 99?

But he's slipping a little; he actually lost a county in 2010. Used to be he barely lost a precinct.

Grassley will be 83 in 2016. In 2022, when term seven ends, Grassley will be 89 years old. It's a delicate business, running against an aging incumbent. Ed Case in Hawaii learned the hard way in 2006 how not to run an age-based campaign against an octogenerian, a then 82 year old Daniel Akaka. Case lost, sacrificing a House seat he's tried and failed repeatedly to win back, and forever earned the wrath of a Hawaii political establishment that (Tulsi Gabbard aside) skews very old. (Only Hawaii would elect a Mazie Hirono to a freshman term at age 65 and consider her young.)

No, you have to be subtle and elliptical, letting the voters fill in the blanks. It would have to be done on issues. And that's the important thing about today.

A Chuck Grassley seeking re-election will be watching his right flank closely for the slightest sign of a whippersnapper upstart. Given the current state of the Iowa Republican Party, that's where the action is. Don't look for Grassley to reach across the aisle on issues big or little, or to vote in the Judiciary Committee for anyone Barack Obama dares to nominate for any Supreme Court vacancy. Grassley `16 means we'll be seeing Pull The Plug On Grandma Grassley more and more.

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