Opinion Chuck Grassley is not in trouble, despite that new poll. (Probably.)


HR King
May 29, 2001
The Des Moines Register released a survey this past weekend that shocked the political world. J. Ann Selzer — the Register’s legendarily accurate pollster — said that eight-term Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley led Democratic opponent Michael Franken by only three points in Iowa, a state Donald Trump won by eight points over Joe Biden in 2020.

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Grassley typically wins reelection by 20 to 30 percentage points, and both sides had written this race off as safe for Grassley. So is this poll a good reason to reassess?
I’m skeptical for three reasons.

The national polls are competitive — and Democrats need a landslide​

In math, there’s a procedure called the “sanity check” in which, essentially, you zoom out and see whether the calculations you’re doing align with your common sense.

We can do a similar gut check on the Iowa race by looking at polls from races in other states.

In national House polls, the parties are roughly evenly matched. The FiveThirtyEight aggregate has Democrats leading Republicans by less than a point, and the RealClearPolitics average has the GOP barely ahead. In Senate polls, the picture is similar: The same purple states that were competitive in 2022 are competitive again.

In a conservative state such as Iowa, with a Senate race that doesn’t seem to have any characteristics that distinguish it from the national environment, that’s probably good enough for the Republican incumbent to win. Over the past several years, Iowa has become a reliably red state. Even in years like 2018, when Democrats won in a national landslide, they couldn’t win the top-of-the-ticket race in Iowa.

In our polarized age, voters mainly pick candidates based on national issues, and swing voters are scarce. There are probably simply too many Republican voters in Iowa to elect Franken.
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Age matters — but probably not enough to flip the seat​

The natural reply is that Grassley’s age — he’s 89 — makes him uniquely vulnerable. Voters routinely say they want candidates in their 40s and 50s, so they might hesitate to put an 89-year-old up for a six-year Senate term.

The problem: Voters don’t always act on their preference for younger candidates. The average senator is 64 years old and the average House member is 58. Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is 76. And Joe Biden, the sitting Democratic president, is 79.

Voters aren’t lying to pollsters when they say they want younger politicians. But other concerns — such as electability, political positions and party loyalty — typically are more important than age. So even if Grassley’s age is a liability, the “R” next to his name will almost certainly be more important to most voters.

The Register poll is great — but it’s just one data point​

Selzer is one of the best pollsters in the country, but no one is infallible. Pollsters collect random samples and use a wide arsenal of statistical techniques to approximate the electorate. Selzer might, through no fault of her own, have fielded a survey with too many Franken voters.
Perry Bacon: Polls can't predict elections in swing states
More data could come out that validates Selzer — such as a series of Iowa polls that confirm that the race is tightening. And if the election results back her up, she should get credit for discovering a close race before anyone else.
But, until new data appears, it is best to stay skeptical. No matter how good a pollster is, one poll is always just one poll.



HR King
Gold Member
Sep 5, 2007
you can’t always get what you want!
It’s a good article. Lots of truth in it. I believe The Post is more reserved here as they have been “burned” (badly) by Iowa in the couple of election cycles. I even noticed Scarborougho tended to Pooh-Pooh the Seltzer/Register poll. Folks out east have decided that Iowa is RED and not purple and it’s gonna take a Missouri moment (“show me”) before they start changing their minds.
Personally, the poll results are a “hope” fir Dems like me. I sincerely hope Grassley is retired next month. I do know that after tomorrow Franken will have 2 votes in his column.
Grasskey has not only gotten very old in the past 10 years, he has gotten very tribal and frankly, unAmerican.