MEMO: Senator Chuck Grassley Increasingly Vulnerable As He Leads Supreme Court Obstruction

TO: Interested Parties


DATE: May 11, 2016

RE: Senator Chuck Grassley Increasingly Vulnerable As He Leads Supreme Court Obstruction



Senator Chuck Grassley likely thought he would coast to reelection this November. How far away those days must seem now.


After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, Senator Grassley chose to help lead Republicans’ unprecedented obstruction of the Supreme Court, and he’s become increasingly vulnerable in these subsequent weeks. A majority of Iowans want the Senate to fill the Supreme Court vacancy this year, and that’s hurt Grassley’s standing with Iowa voters who wonder what happened to the Grassley they once knew. And now with Donald Trump leading the top of the GOP ticket, Chuck Grassley’s reelection is anything but certain.


Polls Show Iowans Want Supreme Court Action…


As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley became one of the leaders’ of Senate Republicans’ plan to obstruct the constitutional process, immediately putting him at odds with the people he was elected to represent. Polling in the Hawkeye state shows that a majority of Iowans want the Senate to fill the court vacancy this year, at the same time Grassley is refusing to even hold a hearing or a vote on President Obama’s nominee. A poll conducted in early March showed that 58% of general election voters wanted the Senate to fill the vacancy, and nearly half of those polled saw the blatant political motivations behind the Republican obstruction. A similar poll from PPP showed that a super majority of Iowans were angry with Republicans when they found out that Republicans were going to reject President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee regardless of who was nominated. These polls clearly showed the divide between Iowans and Senator Grassley.


…And That Hurts Grassley.


Grassley’s support does not exist in a bubble outside the fight over Judge Garland. Both polls showed that nearly half of voters were less likely to support Grassley when they heard about his role in Republicans’ Supreme Court obstruction.


Perhaps most troubling for Grassley is the effect his Supreme Court blockade is having on his approval ratings. The results of a recent poll had Politico writing that Grassley’s favorability ratings were “tumbling” and his support was “eroding” as a result of his constitutional obstruction. The poll, conducted by Hart Research, showed that Grassley’s approvals had plummeted nearly 18 points and that one in five voters were reconsidering voting for Grassley because of his obstruction. At a time where Grassley should be consolidating support from Iowans, these poll numbers are a problem.


Protests Dominate Coverage of Grassley’s Home State Events.


Since the death of Justice Scalia, Grassley has received brutal coverage back home for his leading role in the Supreme Court battle. Nearly every paper in the state has called out Grassley for his misguided and purely political tactics. And the opposition to Senator Grassley’s Supreme Court blockade continues to dominate his in-state appearances that he was banking on for positive attention:


Des Moines Register: Grassley takes flak for court stance

Even in this most conservative corner of Iowa, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley on Monday faced tough and repeated questions over his refusal to hold hearings on a nominee to the Supreme Court.


Crowds at two town hall meetings here  Monday afternoon returned again and again to Grassley’s decision as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee not to consider the nomination of Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland to the high court.


Associated Press: Amid Supreme Court Battle, Grassley Seeks Friendly Audience

If Sen. Charles Grassley thought he could escape the pressure over President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination by traveling to friendly conservative territory, the trip offered little relief.


…”Excuse me, senator, but it seems to me like there’s so much crap in the political system, and I expect you to be a leader and not part of this,” he said. “I’m just getting sick of this stuff. Just do your job, and let politics be what it is.”


Roll Call: Grassley Can’t Escape Supreme Court Debate

Sen. Charles E. Grassley can’t seem to escape the debate over the Supreme Court nominee.


Back in Iowa for recess Monday, he faced 19 questions at two town hall meetings and a televised speech from Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton calling him out for his unwillingness to give President Barack Obama’s nominee a hearing or a vote.


Then there was that pesky Ben Franklin, a protester dressed like the Founding Father and following Grassley to events, urging the senator to “do your job.”


Huffington Post: Chuck Grassley Is Keeping Details Of His Iowa Events Secret To Avoid Protesters

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says he will be going around speaking with constituents at more than a dozen events in his home state during the Senate’s two-week spring recess.


But most of the public will have no idea how to find him, because his office is keeping the details of those events secret to avoid protesters. 


Politico: Supreme Court vise closes on Grassley

As the national battle rages over whether to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia this year, no one is under heavier scrutiny or facing more pressure back home than Grassley, a one-time farmer and sheet metal worker who was first sworn in to the Senate the same month that Ronald Reagan became president.


…Indeed, Grassley did get an earful from voters on the Supreme Court obstruction at two town halls on Monday, even in this corner of Iowa represented by Rep. Steve King, one of the most conservative members of Congress.


Grassley Puts His Faith in Trump


It was always unsettling that Senator Chuck Grassley wanted to wait for the next president to fill the Supreme Court vacancy because of the chance that Donald Trump could become president, but now that Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, it becomes even scarier. After Trump became the only remaining candidate in the presidential primary, Senator Grassley doubled down on his confidence in Trump’s judgment, saying that Trump would nominate “the right type of people” to the Supreme Court.  Considering Trump’s offensive comments about women, minorities and Muslims, it’s shocking that Grassley would think Trump is capable of making a lifetime appointment to the highest court in America.


While Grassley may be ready to let Donald Trump pick the next Supreme Court justice, a majority of Americans disagree. A recent PPP poll shows that only 38% of voters trust Trump to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and support for holding a hearing and vote on Judge Garland has increased in recent weeks, as a Trump nomination became more likely.


But perhaps it isn’t that surprising that Grassley is putting his confidence in Trump. Grassley actually helped validate Trump’s brand of hatred and division early on, providing a warm introduction for Trump just weeks before the Iowa Caucuses.


grassley grass


Grassley Faces a Tough Re-Election, and He Knows It.


Even Senator Grassley admits that his reelection won’t be easy. While speaking in April to at the Republican District Conventions in Iowa, Grassley admitted his reelection won’t be a “slam dunk,” and even said “I’m calling on you, I’m asking you, I’m begging you, I’m imploring you — will you do all you can to help me win reelection.”


Grassley is right to be nervous.  He’s facing a formidable challenger in Patty Judge, who was immediately touted as a potential threat when she entered the race. Judge is a farmer, nurse and terrific public servant whose record of putting Iowans first stands in stark contrast to Grassley continuing to put partisan games ahead of his constitutional responsibility.


Meanwhile, Grassley’s continued flailing on his Supreme Court stance has opened Iowans’ eyes to other ways he is impeding progress after decades in Washington. Even a cursory look at Grassley’s record will show Iowans he voted to shut down the government, wants to interfere in a woman’s private health care decisions, and consistently puts the needs of the wealthy few and corporations above the needs of working Iowans.


This is certainly a race to keep your eye on as Grassley’s continued refusal to do his job leaves him increasingly vulnerable.


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