Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, displayed political savvy and a longtime independent streak in gladly accepting former President Donald Trump’s endorsement during the weekend.
Trump expressed support for Grassley, who at 88 will run for reelection, during Saturday night’s rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds despite the two men not always agreeing on issues.
“I think it surprised a lot of people,” former Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who served with Grassley for 18 years in the Senate, 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.”
Other longtime Grassley friends say the senator has always read the political climate well.
“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 Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, told The Hill.
“I’m not surprised by it. I’ve known Chuck for over half a century and he is a consummate political figure.”
Grassley has been a friend and ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a constant target of Trump criticism. Still, he understands fellow Iowans supported Trump over President Joe Biden 53.1% to 44.9% in last year’s presidential election.
“I was born at night but not last night,” Grassley said at the weekend rally. “So, if I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91% of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart. I’m smart enough to accept that endorsement.”
When asked about Trump’s repeated attacks against McConnell, Grassley sidestepped the question, The Hill reported.
“We Republicans have to stick together. We should do everything to unite each other,” he said.
Grassley has criticized Trump for refusing to accept the results of the 2020 election. He even accused the former president of “poor leadership” and “extreme, aggressive, and irresponsible” language.
The senator also said Trump encouraged then-Vice President Mike Pence “to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions” to interfere with the certification of the Electoral College vote tally.
Despite their differences, Trump and Grassley worked together to reshape the federal judiciary and overhaul the tax code during the former president’s administration.
“They worked on a lot together,” Garrett Ventry, a former aide to Grassley, told The Hill. “They got criminal justice reform done, a number of justices and Supreme Court justices, and worked heavily on tax issues.”
Grassley is considered a heavy primary favorite against GOP state Sen. Jim Carlin who said he decided to run because he was angered by the senator’s decision not to investigate Trump’s election-fraud accusations.