Within the ballot, launched on Saturday, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R) has a 3-point lead over his Democratic challenger, Navy admiral Mike Franken — a margin safely described as a toss-up. That is for an incumbent senator who has gained reelection six occasions by a median margin of 35 share factors. His closest Senate race to this point was in 1980, when he was first elected; then he gained by 8 factors.
Since then, he’s loved the advantages of incumbency in a state that’s seemingly culturally dedicated to the concept. In 2014, I wrote about the bizarre sample in Iowa from 1980 via 2010: voters within the state would go to the polls and vote overwhelmingly to ship Grassley to the Senate after which, 4 years later, ship Democrat Tom Harkin there as nicely. Generally Grassley’s reelection aligned with the presidential contest; generally Harkin’s did. Didn’t matter.
Then Harkin introduced his retirement on the age of 74. In 2014, his seat was gained by Joni Ernst (R), who held it in 2020. At about the identical time, Iowa shifted extra forcefully to the precise in presidential voting.
However discover what occurred with the margins within the presidential and Senate races since 2014, except for Grassley’s. In 2014, Ernst gained by about 8 factors. In 2020, she gained reelection barely extra narrowly. Donald Trump gained the state in 2016 and 2020 by 9 factors and eight factors respectively. In different phrases, statewide federal elections in Iowa since 2014 have been constantly within the vary of an 8-point GOP benefit.
Once more, Grassley’s reelection in 2016 was an exception to the pattern. However his final two reelection bids have been trending downward: In 2010 (a giant Republican yr) he gained by 31 factors, down from 42 factors six years earlier than. Then in 2016 he gained by 24 factors. If that pattern have been to proceed, you’d count on him to win with a margin within the double digits this yr, too.
However not solely have Iowa politics grow to be much less bipartisan since 2014, Grassley himself has modified. To wit: he’s gotten older.
This isn’t an earth-shattering revelation, after all, noticing that point progresses in a single constant route. However it appears clear that in a second the place the age of elected leaders is below explicit scrutiny, looking for reelection on the age of 89 years outdated will not be essentially an asset.
That Grassley sought reelection is its own commentary on the growing old of America. The oldest child boomers are 76 years outdated, and there are lots of them. However the arrival of the millennial technology within the voting pool signifies that there’s as a lot strain from under for brand new management as there’s assist for members of Grassley’s technology.
Census Bureau information present that, in 2010, 21 % of the nationwide voters was 10 years youthful than Grassley or older. In 2020 — a presidential yr with document turnout, admittedly — solely 8 % of the voters was 10 years youthful than Grassley or older. Seven % of the 2010 voters was 50 or extra years youthful than Grassley. In 2020, 29 % of the voters was.
This concern is mirrored within the Selzer ballot. Six in 10 Iowans see Grassley’s age as a priority; solely a 3rd see it as an asset. Amongst independents, twice as many Iowans view it as a priority as an asset.
Franken, Grassley’s opponent, is enjoying up the problem. An ad launched by his marketing campaign final month has older voters (or, no less than, actors meant to symbolize such voters) complaining about Grassley’s votes centered on senior points like well being care prices. However the level about Grassley’s age is unsubtle: It ends with a timeline of his time within the Senate and a fast slideshow of Grassley’s look in every contest. A younger Iowan turning into an aged Washington establishment.
Even when Grassley weren’t the age he’s, it appears possible that he wouldn’t coast to reelection by a 30-point margin. However he’s as outdated as he’s, and Selzer’s information means that’s a legal responsibility.
And Selzer’s information are price heeding.