Iowa’s senior senator, Republican Charles E. Grassley, who celebrates his 82nd birthday Thursday, is a long-distance runner, both in his political career (first elected to public office in 1958 as a member of the Iowa Legislature) and in his exercise regimen.
Here’s how Grassley told us he plans to celebrate: “I normally get up at 4 o’clock and run 3 miles, four times a week. But on my birthday, I run from my home to the Dome, my home in Arlington to the Capitol building” — about 6.1 miles, he said.
“I’ll do that Thursday morning. And then I’ll do my regular schedule. And we’ll have an ice cream party at about 4 o’clock in the office and I’m going to have a big bowl of ice cream. Vanilla with chocolate covering,” he said.
We reminded Grassley that in the 3-mile American Council of Life Insurers Capital Challenge in May he finished in about 38 minutes. “That’s not very good, because 15 years ago I did it in 26 minutes, or 27 minutes,” he observed.
CQ Now: Grassley Celebrates 82nd Birthday (Podcast)
Asked what he looked forward to over the next 12 months, he said: Being re-elected in 2016. It would be his seventh election to the Senate.
As for potential Democratic challengers, the one Grassley thinks would be the most difficult is state Sen. Rob Hogg from Cedar Rapids. Grassley said, “I know him a little bit, not very much, but he will be a strong competitor.”
Asked about his other goals over the next year, Grassley replied, “You mean legislatively or as a farmer? Have a bumper corn crop. Let’s see, legislatively: sentencing reform, patent trolling, prison reform, asset forfeiture, change some of the obstacles [to the] Freedom of Information Act. ... Get good judges.”
Grassley said the Senate is a different place from when he arrived in 1981.
“Just as friendly, but more partisanship,” he said. “You know how the Senate is: It’s a very collegial body. We get along with each other very much. But it’s more partisan because the grass roots of America is more partisan and ideologically divided. Thirty years ago we didn’t have the Internet. We didn’t have Fox News, we didn’t have MSNBC. … Congress reflects the grass roots and the grass roots is more divided than they ever have been. And we don’t have liberal and conservative Republicans, and we don’t have liberal and conservative Democrats, like we had 30 years ago.”
In his six Senate elections, Grassley’s closest contest was his first, back in 1980 when he won with 54 percent of the vote.
The Iowa farmer shows some signs of slowing down as a runner, but he’s still working very hard for 2016. And as it stands now, Democrats would have a hard time beating him. The seat is rated Safe Republican for 2016 in CQ Roll Call's Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report.
See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.