JOHNSTON — If Chuck Grassley runs for an eighth term in the U.S. Senate, Iowa’s Republican Party state chairman will be “smiling.”
If Grassley, who would be 89 years old at the start of another six-year term, decides against running for re-election, Jeff Kaufmann said he would expect a wide open Republican primary race for the seat.
Kaufmann on Friday discussed the 2022 elections, the Iowa caucuses, and other topics during taping for the weekend episode of “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS.
Kaufmann said he has no insight into whether Grassley will run for another term in the Senate. Grassley has been noncommittal, telling reporters to ask him again later this year.
If Grassley runs again, Kaufmann expects him to be successful.
“I will tell you this, that if is he does run, I’m going to be smiling,” Kaufmann said. “But I don’t know, (and) if Chuck Grassley does not run, then obviously my goal slides to a fair and neutral primary to see who is our candidate and then getting that candidate to victory.”
When there was an open-seat U.S. Senate race in 2014, the Democratic field cleared for former Congressman Bruce Braley. The Republican side featured a competitive, five-candidate primary race from which then-state lawmaker Joni Ernst emerged. Ernst defeated Braley in the general election by 8 percentage points.
Kaufmann said if Grassley does not run in 2022, he expects a competitive primary similar to the one Ernst won in 2014, if not even more populated.
“I would assume that it will include several people, and we have a large bench,” Kaufmann said of Iowa Republicans. “We’ve got a (state) Capitol full of candidates and we have a lot of successful businesspeople. So I think it will be bigger.”
As to the future of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential precinct caucuses, Kaufmann said as always he will work with the Democratic Party’s state chairman to maintain Iowa’s enviable position, which is once again under fire after a technological malfunction prevented the Democrats from reporting timely results in the 2020 caucuses.
Historically, some criticize Iowa as a lead-off state in the presidential nominating process because the state’s demographics are not reflective of the entire country. One proposal would have all four early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina — hold their early-voting events on the same day.
Kaufmann did not express support for that proposal, which he said defeats the spirit of Iowa’s leadoff role, where candidates who are not necessarily well-funded can campaign and catch voters’ attention.
“I think it defeats the purpose. The purpose of starting with Iowa is so that a Rick Santorum or a Barack Obama can actually go out there and actually campaign face-to-face,” Kaufmann said. “If we load up four (states), then we’re back to starting (with) the equivalent of starting in a state like, maybe not like California, but in a state that is much larger.”