IA-Sen: Will Grassley get the “race of his life”?

Senator Chuck Grassley is seeking a sixth term in 2010, and Iowa Democrats have never managed to give him a tough re-election race before. However, today Iowa Democratic Party chair Michael Kiernan spoke confidently about a “first-round draft pick” who is ready to run against Grassley, Kay Henderson reported for Radio Iowa.

“I’m going to tell you here today that Chuck Grassley is going to be in for the race of his life.” […]

“You’re just going to have to wait to find out,” Kiernan said this morning during taping of this weekend’s “Iowa Press” program.  “We want to wait ’til, obviously, after Terry Branstad announced his candidacy for governor.”

Kiernan isn’t revealing the characteristics this phantom candidate may have either. “I’ll just wait for the announcement,” Kiernan said.  “You will be impressed.” […]

“I’m here to tell you today that it will be the toughest race that Chuck Grassley has faced since John Culver,” Kiernan said.

Grassley defeated Senator John Culver (Governor Chet Culver’s father) in the 1980 Reagan landslide.

Speaking to reporters after today’s taping, Kiernan said the big-name challenger is “100 percent committed” to this race.

Your guess is as good as mine. A retired politician? Former first lady Christie Vilsack? A celebrity in a non-political field? Someone from the business world? (Retired Principal Financial Group CEO Barry Griswell has ruled out running, as has Fred Hubbell, the incoming interim director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development.)

Grassley’s approval rating has fallen this year, but it’ll take a lot to convince me that we can defeat him. He’s still got a strong brand name and 30 years of constituent service behind him.

IA-Sen: New ad against Grassley, and maybe new challenger

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America have produced a new television commercial, which asks which side Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is on:

Click here to donate to help keep this ad on the air in Iowa and Washington, DC.

Speaking of which side Grassley’s on, Monday’s Des Moines Register reports on his massive campaign contributions from health industry interest groups. Thomas Beaumont’s story was based on numbers compiled by Maplight.org.

Meanwhile, Representative Bruce Braley confirmed on Friday that he is running for re-election in Iowa’s first Congressional district (PVI D+5). I consider him likely to run for U.S. Senate when either Grassley or Tom Harkin retires. (Harkin comes up for re-election in 2014.)

Rumors persist that a prominent Democrat will join Bob Krause and Tom Fiegen in challenging Grassley next year. Some people have been talking about Barry Griswell, the retired CEO of the Principal Financial Group. It was news to me that Griswell is even a Democrat; he has donated to politicians from both parties in the past. Al Swearengen of The Iowa Republican blog speculates that Fred Hubbell is the mystery candidate. Hubbell currently chairs the Iowa Power Fund Board, to which Governor Chet Culver appointed him. From his official bio:

Fred S. Hubbell was a member of the Executive Board and Chairman of Insurance and Asset Management Americas for ING Group. Mr. Hubbell retired from ING Group’s Executive Board effective April 25, 2006. Mr. Hubbell was formerly Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Equitable of Iowa Companies, an insurance holding company, serving in his position as Chairman from May 1993 to October 1997, and as President and Chief Executive Officer from May 1989 to October 1997.

Like Griswell, Hubbell could be a self-funding candidate, but unlike Griswell, he has a consistent history of supporting Democrats. Charlotte Hubbell, Fred Hubbell’s wife, serves on the state’s Environmental Protection Commission.

UPDATE: Hubbell told Iowa Independent he’s not interested in running against Grassley.