I know it sounds nuts but let's tune into the guessing game the internets is playing.
It starts with Charlie Cook, who writes:
A fellow who oversees lobbying in all 50 states for a major corporation recently told me about a certain Republican U.S. senator up for re-election in 2010, someone generally regarded as fairly conservative who might face a serious challenge from a very conservative fellow Republican. The incumbent has not been tainted by scandal, has never embarrassed himself by making a major mistake, is highly regarded in Washington, and is considered a very effective senator.
I was dumbfounded. Although it isn't hard to see why a moderate Republican such as Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter could face a conservative primary challenge, it is difficult to understand why a conservative Republican would be challenged from the right. This is a party in danger of cannibalizing itself.
At Kos, Brownsox goes through some process of elimination and narrows the list to:
• John McCain of Arizona
• John Thune of South Dakota
• Johnny Isakson of Georgia
• Chuck Grassley of Iowa
• Richard Shelby of Alabama
• Judd Gregg of New Hampshire
• Bob Bennett of Utah
The tea leaf reading continues in the comments and over at Swing State Project. Several commentators conclude that it is, indeed, our own Chuck, with the obvious challenger being Steve King.
I'm not buying it. King's crazy but not stupid, and why would he primary Grassley two years after walking away from a run against Harkin? But still: the religious wing of the party doesn't adore Grassley and has a chip on its shoulder about his fraud investigations touching some church-scam fundraising. Remember how Grassley was pointedly excluded from the national convention delegation? And primaryphobia would help explain his vote against Geithner in committee.
Some comments speculate that this is pressure on Grassley to retire. You all know my theory on that; he's staying one more term till his grandson, state Rep. Pat Grassley, is old enough.
Enjoy the amateur punditry in the comments. My guess is it's Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore taking on Shelby in Alabama; some of those Alabama Republicans have never liked ex-Democrat Shelby, who beat one of their own, Jeremiah Denton, in 1986 before becoming a turncoat the day after the 1994 election.
Meanwhile, Stuart Rothenberg rates the Grassley seat as "Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party." That's the lowest of the on the radar categories, but not "Currently Safe." My guess is that Rothenberg is not 100 percent convinced that Grassley will run.
And Greg Sargent writes:
An ad campaign blitzing a half dozen GOP Senators will be launched in the middle of next week by one such outside group, Americans United For Change, which will air ads for at least four days pressuring the Senators to back Obama’s stimulus package.
“The ads will say, `Senator, you have a stark choice. Are you going to play politics as usual and embrace the failed policies of the past, or will you support the Obama plan?’” says a Democratic operative involved in the project.
Some or all of the Senators likely to be targeted: Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), and George Voinovich (Ohio).
Anyway, all the more reason for Democrats to recruit a strong candidate NOW.