Grassley: I got up before you did to tell you I'm running for another term

AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool

Does an 88-year-old incumbent have what it takes to run for another six-year term in the US Senate? Chuck Grassley got up early to start his run — both on the road and on the campaign trail. The seven-term Republican from Iowa wants to score his eighth term, but more importantly wants to give Mitch McConnell his best chance to take back control of the upper chamber:

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican in the Senate, announced Friday on Twitter that he would seek an eighth term, relieving Republicans worried about a bitter primary fight that could put the seat at risk.

Mr. Grassley, who turned 88 last week and would be 95 at the end of his term, sought to emphasize his fitness in disclosing his plans that will draw attention because of his age. A tweet showed an alarm clock turning to 4 a.m. and Mr. Grassley jogging in the early morning darkness.

“It’s 4 a.m. in Iowa so I’m running,” said Mr. Grassley, a habitual jogger. “I do that 6 days a week.”

In a separate release, Mr. Grassley, first elected to public office as a state legislator in 1958, said that he has been encouraged to run by Iowans as he toured the state in recent months.

“I’m working as hard as ever for the people of Iowa and there’s more work to do,” he said in a statement. “In a time of crisis and polarization, Iowa needs strong, effective leadership.”

That’s not the main reason Grassley’s back in harness for another campaign. Even with Joe Biden looking decrepit and practically guaranteeing the GOP a big night in the midterms, the Senate math still cuts against Republicans. Having Grassley in the race eliminates a risk for McConnell:

Republicans were hoping not to add another open seat to the list of those they already have to defend. Five Senate Republicans have already announced they will not be running for re-election next year, leaving open seats in Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The GOP will have to defend 20 seats altogether in the 2022 midterm elections.

In comparison, Democrats have to defend 14, a mismatch that would otherwise suggest that Democrats could take full Senate control. If they did, Chuck Schumer would finally be able to control outcomes on presidential nominations, especially in the judiciary. Grassley’s re-up helps, but it’s still dicey for McConnell:

Georgia and Arizona are going to be difficult for Democrats to defend, and the way things are going, perhaps even Colorado might be tough. The GOP also hopes that they can wrest Nevada away from Democrats and their non-entity incumbent Catherine Cortez-Masto  However, Republicans have a very tough fight coming up in Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin might be a reach too at this point. North Carolina is also nearly evenly split these days. It’s possible that we might end up with a wash, although Biden’s falling popularity is certainly one reason for the GOP to remain hopeful about their prospects for a red wave next fall.

Not having to defend another open seat makes that somewhat easier. Grassley’s doing McConnell a solid by running again and settling the issue in Iowa. If no one else retires out of his caucus, McConnell’s got about as much chance as he’ll ever get to win back the majority — but it’s still less than even-up.