Grassley’s appearance at Iowa Trump rally sends signals about former president’s grip

The appearance of long-serving GOP Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa at a campaign-style rally in Des Moines held by Donald Trump last weekend is further indication that the former president’s hold on the Republican Party remains strong despite accusations he was responsible for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The Hill reported Tuesday that the 88-year-old senator’s willingness to stand with Trump at the raucous rally a few days after the former president ripped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is an ally and close friend of Grassley’s, “served as a wakeup call to some Republicans that Trump is back and very much in charge of the party.”

Grassley, the outlet noted, has attempted to craft a reputation over his 40 years in the Senate as a representative of the people of his state who “cherish family values, hard work, ethical behavior and integrity.”

To that point, Grassley has recently pushed back on Trump’s 2020 election claims that the outcome was “rigged,” accusing the 45th president of exhibiting “poor leadership” as well as using “extreme, aggressive and irresponsible” verbiage.

Grassley also ripped Trump for harassing and insulting election leaders around the country in an attempt “to get his way,” while pressing his then-vice president, Mike Pence, “to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions” to disrupt the count of Electoral College votes in Congress the day of the riot.

McConnell has also expressed resentment towards Trump; he claimed last month that the former president is a “fading brand” within the party.

“There is a clear trend moving” away from Trump, McConnell reportedly said, adding, “Sucking up to Donald Trump is not a strategy that works.”

Nevertheless, Grassley appeared to eagerly accept the former president’s backing at a rally where Trump again insisted that the 2020 election was not on the level while trashing McConnell in the days leading up to the event as “not the guy” to lead the Senate GOP.

“I think it surprised a lot of people,” former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who served alongside Grassley three six-year terms, told The Hill. “Chuck has always marched to his drum, he’s always been extraordinarily independent and a very strong figure in the Senate over the years, clearly.

“So I don’t think he needs Donald Trump, and I was a little surprised he decided to take that leap. But Chuck does what he does and lives to his own drumbeat,” Gregg continued.

But other GOP lawmakers have said that Grassley is astute at reading political tea leaves.

“Chuck is a quality politician and he has said some things that were critical of the president, which is rather unique, but he’s now running for office,” former Iowa GOP Rep. Jim Leach told the outlet, adding that he’s known Grassley for a long time as well.

“I’m not surprised by it. I’ve known Chuck for over half a century and he is a consummate political figure,” he said.

Nevertheless, Leach, who served three decades in the U.S. House (1977 to 2007) also noted that there are distinct differences between Grassley and Trump.

Chuck Grassley’s ethics fit Iowa, Donald Trump’s ethics do not. It’s that simple,” Leach claimed.

Last month, Grassley announced he would run again for another term, which angered state Sen. Jim Carlin (R), who announced a primary run against the U.S. senator, explaining he was upset by Grassley’s refusal to investigate Trump’s election claims though the Iowa stalwart has long supported other ethics probes.

And while Grassley is the heavy favorite to win the primary, he is not taking chances, either.

“I was born at night but not last night,” Grassley told attendees at the Saturday rally in Des Moines. “So if I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart. I’m smart enough to accept that endorsement.”

Asked about Trump’s feud with McConnell, Grassley responded magnanimously: “We Republicans have to stick together. We should do everything to unite each other.”

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