Conlin Wins in Iowa—Is Grassley Vulnerable?

Roxanne Conlin, a former Iowa Attorney General, won the Democrats’ Senate nomination there Tuesday night and will face incumbent Republican Chuck Grassley in the fall. Logic holds that Grassley should be vulnerable. Iowa has been trending blue, and is perfectly capable of sending Democrats to Washington—Tom Harkin, the Dem half of the state’s senate pair, is pretty liberal and a big supporter of organized labor. Grassley has definitely been feeling some pressure from his state’s increasingly blue hue—he flirted with negotiating on health care reform, for example. Most important, Conlin’s a serious candidate with the ability to raise real money. The Democratic National Committee is certainly excited about her chances. DNC chair Tim Kaine released this statement Tuesday night:

As we look toward November, the contrast for Iowa voters could not be more clear. Voters will choose between Roxanne Conlin, a Democrat who will fight for middle-class Americans, or Republican Chuck Grassley, a senator who has repeatedly put special interests and the insurance companies ahead of the people of Iowa. At every turn Senator Grassley and his Republican colleagues in Congress have opposed President Obama—from the Recovery Act, to the Affordable Care Act, to relief for out of work Americans. Senator Grassley had the opportunity to do right by the American people by standing with the President on health reform, but decided instead to stand with insurance companies. We know where Chuck Grassley stands, and it is not with the people of Iowa. This November Iowans will have the opportunity to elect Roxanne Conlin, a candidate who will work hard every day for the people of Iowa.

I’m not sure Grassley is as vulnerable as Kaine hopes. Sure, one poll had Conlin within 10 points of Grassley earlier this year. But that result hasn’t been replicated since. We can tell one thing from the statement, though: in Iowa, at least, the Dems are perfectly confident about running on their record. If this turns out to be an anti-incumbent, rather than simply an anti-Dem, year, look for Conlin to at least give Grassley a scare.