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US SENATE: IOWA

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley reelected to eighth term

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Election 2022 Iowa

Sen Charles Grassley R-Iowa, speaks at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, during U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst's annual Roast and Ride on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022. (Bryon Houlgrave /The Des Moines Register via AP)

Chuck Grassley will return to the United States Senate for an eighth term, defeating an energized Democratic challenge Tuesday night, multiple media outlets projected.

While the final vote tallies were not in, Grassley's margin appeared too large to overcome, and NBC and ABC News both called the race for Grassley around 9:30. Late polling and early results suggest the race will be Grassley's closest in decades, as Democratic challenger Mike Franken, a former Navy admiral, campaigned to peel off independent and Republican support from the senator who has enjoyed broad crossover appeal in previous elections.

In an election that was a referendum on the 89-year-old statesman, Grassley’s campaign emphasized his long tenure in the Senate, portraying him as a bipartisan problem-solver whose seniority would benefit Iowans.

With several Senate races still unresolved Tuesday night, it’s unclear where control of the chamber will lie. Should Republicans gain a majority, Grassley would reprise his role as President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the third in line for the presidency. He would also likely chair the powerful Committee on the Judiciary, which will give him broad discretion over President Joe Biden’s nominees to the federal bench and any potential Supreme Court nominees.

Franken, 64, hung his message to voters on the charge that Grassley had held office too long — if he finishes this six-year term he will have been in the Senate for 48 years, and held political office for 70.

Franken also accused Grassley of being a right-wing partisan and beholden to corporate interests. He leaned on his four-decade naval career, saying he would put “country over party,” and saying he had the tenacity to confront threats to American democracy.

But Franken could not convince the right voters to abandon Grassley by Election Day. Last-minute polling from the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found the Republican base and many independents had coalesced around Grassley.

Grassley, though, said his seniority was a positive, not a negative. Grassley’s seniority puts him first in line for prime committee positions, which he says gives Iowa an outsized role in key decisions.

Grassley’s campaign portrayed Franken as far-left, elitist, and not in line with Iowa voters.

Republicans went into Tuesday expecting to have the upper hand, as national indicators projected Republican wins in the House and a competitive Senate contest. Dissatisfaction over the Biden presidency gave the GOP room to hammer on soaring inflation, rising crime in cities, and warnings of unchecked border security — all issues Grassley placed top of mind, as well.

In the final vote, Grassley was able to overcome concerns about his age and a waning favorability. In an early October Iowa Poll, 60% of likely voters said they thought Grassley’s age was a concern. Grassley’s job approval also hit an all-time low in the October poll, with 44% of Iowans approving of his job in the Senate and 48% disapproving.

He brushed off questions about his age by pointing to his physical health. He says he goes on daily 2-mile runs at 4 a.m. and has done push-ups before crowds at public appearances.

Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks during a political rally where former President Donald Trump will headline in support of Sen. Chuck Grassley, Gov. Kim Reynolds and others at the Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City, Iowa, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

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