James Q. Lynch, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Sen. Chuck Grassley is predicting as many as four GOP presidential hopefuls could come out of the Iowa precinct caucuses claiming victory.
“I would be surprised if there was a clear winner,” the Iowa Republican said on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal this morning. With three candidates polling between 16 and 25 percent and the race remaining fluid, he said it’s possible three of four candidates could do well enough to claim victory as they head to New Hampshire for the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Grassley speculated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum all have a shot of finishing at or close enough to the top to gain momentum as the nomination race moves to primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
On the other hand, Grassley noted Romney “is coming on strong,” moving up from the mid-teens to 25 percent in the latest CNN poll.
“If he is the clear victor, it will be hard for people to catch up with him,” Grassley said.
Asked about Rick Santorum’s leap from 5 percent to 16 percent and third place in that poll, Grassley said it shows the benefit of hard work.
“He’s been in every country at least once and is going back to many of them,” He said. “He’s worked this state harder than anyone else. He’s coming up and could finish in third or fourth place.”
It’s unusual that he hasn’t endorsed a candidate, Grassley said, but he’s comfortable there is more than one who can beat Barack Obama and could be a good president.
“Sitting these things out is very unusual for Chuck Grassley,” he conceded.
He also called it odd that social issues have not dominated the race in Iowa, but said concern about the economy seems trumping all other issues.
“People are more concerned about jobs and the economy than social issues,” he said. “I’m not saying the social issues aren’t important. I think Santorum has made that as clear as anyone.”
He also downplayed a suggestion there is a rift in the evangelical Christian community because it hasn’t rallied around one candidate.
Instead, Grassley, an evangelical Christian himself, said there are a number of candidates – Perry, Santorum and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, “all stand up for things we call social conservative issues.”
“So it’s just natural that some like Bachmann best, others like Rick Perry best and other like Santorum best,” Grassley said.
Ethanol also has been less of an issue this year than during precious caucus campaigns, Grassley said. He defended tax credits that helped “get this infant industry started.” However, that tax credit ends Dec. 31.
“That’s perfectly legitimate after all of the years there has been a government incentive,” Grassley said. He noted 10 percent of fuel burned in vehicles is from renewable sources, much of it ethanol.
“Would people rather we import 10 percent more” from countries that don’t like us, Grassley asked.
Grassley won’t be attending his caucus, he said, but visiting several caucus sites to thanks Republicans for their participation and to encourage them to continue working for GOP candidate in the 2012 election.