Talk to Democrats privately in Iowa and you’ll know they’re not kidding themselves: despite the Supreme Court controversy, defeating Chuck Grassley is an uphill climb. Most are simply excited that the possibility even exists this year to knock off the six-term incumbent.
Could Patty Judge defeat Grassley? Absolutely. But a whole lot of factors have to come together.
Yesterday, those factors started to come together.
First, for Grassley to be truly vulnerable, his obstruction of the Supreme Court nomination needs to stay in the news. That came roaring back into focus the day after the Democratic primary.
“[T]here are invertebrates that have shown more spine than Sen. Charles Grassley,” declared the Des Moines Register in a blistering editorial Wednesday morning.
The Register raked Grassley over the coals for his weak answer in responding to Trump’s racist judge comments, his continued obstruction of the Supreme Court nomination, and also his committee’s slow work in confirming judges at all levels.
Trump has said plenty of crazy things before, but in targeting a judge – even though it’s not someone connected to the Supreme Court – he effectively made the story about his own judgement in potential nominee’s cultural backgrounds.
Second, Grassley needs to stumble in his own campaign. And oh boy, did he ever yesterday.
“I think that you don’t have any more trouble with what Trump said than when Sotomayor said that — when she was found saying in speeches that, quote, ‘A wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male,’” Grassley told reporters on a conference call yesterday.
The outrage to that statement quickly went viral. Many news outlets found it ridiculous that Grassley would actually compare Trump saying a judge can’t be fair or trusted because of his ethnic heritage to a current Supreme Court justice explaining how a diverse background can help improve your understanding.
“Grassley Sees A Bizarre Equivalence Between Trump, Sotomayor,” read the MSNBC headline.
The Washington Examiner said that Grassley was essentially adopting the Drudge Report’s framing of the matter.
“No, Chuck Grassley, Donald Trump’s Comments Are Definitely Not Like Sonia Sotomayor’s,” sighed the website Bustle.com.
Raw Story put him the company of Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson, discredited CNN contributor Jeffrey Lord and Mike Huckabee.
“Grassley’s attempt to downplay Trump’s racism comes as the senator is leading an unprecedented campaign to maximize the impact Trump will have on the judiciary if the GOP candidate defeats Democrat Hillary Clinton,” Think Progress pointed out.
“OK, Buddy,” the Huffington Post added in their post.
And that’s only some of the negative media Grassley received yesterday. He’s had tough press days before in his refusal to hold hearings, but this one was particularly brutal – extra so since it was the first day after the Democrats’ primary. You would’ve thought Republicans would want to use yesterday to start defining Patty Judge.
It apparently was too much for Grassley, who amazingly walked back his Sotomayor statement within just hours. He claimed he didn’t mean to compare the two things. Yet Grassley almost certainly prepared the criticism, having the full, exact quote ready when he talked with press that morning. All in all, it was a very rare unforced error on Grassley’s part, and perhaps a sign the pressure is getting to him.
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) June 8, 2016
Third, Trump needs to turn into the disaster many thought he would become for the general election. You don’t need a list of links to news articles to know what’s happened in the last week.
But it does appear the Trump campaign – despite how the candidate himself is starting to act – is perfectly happy to continue to make racist attacks on Judge Curiel. Yesterday in Iowa, Sam Clovis, one of Trump’s top advisers, labeled a Latino lawyers association as “anti-American.”
Politifact labeled Trump’s attack on this particular group as incorrect. The La Raza Lawyers Association mostly works on helping young Latinos interested in a career in law. But apparently that’s enough for Clovis to label them as un-American.
It’s becoming clear that Trump and his campaign will continue to drag down the Republican ticket. And Grassley has tied himself much more closely with Trump than many other Republicans. A Quad City Times article noted how Trump has already become the focus of the Grassley-Judge matchup.
Fourth, Patty Judge needs to run a tough campaign and raise a lot of money.
She kicked off her general election campaign Tuesday night by going straight at Grassley, blasting him for his allegiance with Trump and continued Supreme Court obstruction. All the signs at her Tuesday night victory party read “The Judge Grassley Can’t Ignore.”
“There is no excuse for not holding those hearings,” Judge said after being declared the victor. “None. We know what it is about. It is about partisan politics and nothing more. It’s about taking instruction from Mitch McConnell rather than Iowans. It’s about his belief that Donald Trump should pick the next Supreme Court judge.”
And, most importantly, it looks like the race will start making national news. The Atlantic was out with a piece the day after the primary describing Grassley’s tough challenge in his campaign against Judge. “Could this be the beginning of the end for Senator Chuck Grassley?” they asked online. Elle Magazine ran a profile on Judge this week as well.
Continued national exposure will be helpful to Judge, as it could direct donors to spend their money in the Iowa Senate race.
There’s a long way to go between now and Election Day. Obviously, not every day will prove as damaging for Grassley as yesterday was. But the trend for Iowa’s senior Senator’s reelection is already off to a very, very bad start.
by Pat Rynard