Rudy, Romney court Grassley today

The GOP presidential candidates are parading themselves in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Washington, D.C. today.  Two of them also have scheduled private meetings with a very influential Iowa Republican — Senator Charles Grassley.

Grassley, as you may recall, backed Bob Dole’s 1996 bid for the White House and campaigned extensively with his senate pal in that cycle.  The night Dole was nominated at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego, Grassley was sitting on the couch beside Dole.  It was the night Elizabeth Dole gave her speech at the convention and afterwards, when she arrived in the hotel suite where Dole & Company were positioned, a campaign aide suggested to Grassley that he get up from the couch he was sharing with Dole so Dole’s wife could occupy the space (there were still cameras in the room to record the moment when Dole was officially the party’s nominee).  Dole himself said no and as Grassley recounted the story, insisted that Grassley remain where he was because Grassley’s backing in Iowa that winter had put the whole thing in motion.  If you see pictures from that moment when Dole won the nomination, you will notice that Elizabeth Dole is sitting on the floor by the couch.

No word on who is sitting where today as Grassley meets privately in DC with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, but here is what Grassley told Radio Iowa’s Matt Kelley this morning about the process:

Grassley:  "I have a one-on-one meeting first with former Governor Mitt Romney and later on in the day with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  The fact that I’m meeting with those two the same day is not very significant.  It just happens that that’s the way it worked out.  Both of them asked to meet with me regarding their presidential bids.  In August, I met in Des Moines with former Senator Fred Thompson.  I’ve had the opportunity, been on the campaign trail with Mike Huckabee, so one way or another, by accident or by plan, I meet with anybody who asks to meet with me to discuss their candidacy.  I haven’t decided when or even if I will endorse a candidate.  I’m taking time to see how each of them handles themselves on the campaign trail, interacting with voters and articulating their visions — giving hope and opportunity to the next generation in America.  I’m particularly interested in their views on responsible fiscal leadership, respect for traditional values and most importantly, the number one responsibility of the federal government under our constitution — our national security and safeguarding American freedom and promoting freedom around the world."

Grassley also backed Bob Dole’s 1988 bid for the White House.  There is a valuable piece of audio in the Radio Iowa archive from the "official campaign announcement" of Dole’s candidacy.  It was an event in Dallas County, covered by Radio Iowa’s Todd Kimm, who rolled tape (cassette tape!) on the entire event — so he captured the audio of Dole and Grassley singing the National Anthem.  Grassley, by the way, is the dominant voice (mp3 runs 1 min).  .

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.