I read somewhere on-line that Barry Griswell might be the Democrats’ dark horse candidate against Sen. Chuck Grassley. Griswell, the recently retired CEO of Des Moines-based Principal Financial Group, has also been involved in numerous community activities and causes in central Iowa.
Griswell has been involved as the President of the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation and served on the United Way of America board of trustees. Griswell recently helped write the book, The Adversity Paradox, An Unconventional Guide to Achieving Uncommon Business Success, which was published in April 2009 and debuted at No. 8 on the Wall Street Journal’s list of business bestsellers.
There is no doubt that Barry Griswell is an Iowa success story, but will his success in business make him a good political candidate? I’ll be the first to say, I don’t think Barry Griswell is the candidate that Iowa Democrats are looking for. It just seems like an odd fit.
First, there are his numerous contributions to Republican candidates and causes. In fact, Griswell was a big donor to Senator Grassley’s last campaign. He contributed $2000 in 2004. Griswell has also donated around $17,000 to the Republican Party of Iowa during the current decade. I doubt that will go over well with the liberal Democrat base, especially when you note that he hasn’t contributed a dime to IDP.
Griswell also donated significant amounts to Stan Thompson’s and Jeff Lamberti’s campaigns for congress. In addition to his large contribution to Lamberti in 2006, he also contributed $10,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Griswell has also contributed large amounts to Democrats like Tom Harkin, Leonard Boswell, Chet Culver, and Mike Gronstal, but it’s interesting that he has not contributed to the Democratic Party at any level.
So, what would Griswell’s basis for a campaign even be? He obviously didn’t have a problem with Senator Grassley in 2004, so what would cause him to run against him now? Griswell can’t really attack Grassley based on TARP since Principal applied for TARP funds, although ultimately turned them down.
I’m just failing to see why a Griswell candidacy would worry Grassley? I mean, if Iowa Democrats want to nominate a former CEO from a huge company who pulled in a $1 million-plus annual salary, I’m not going to stop them. I actually think such a move would give the Democrat base fits and provide Grassley with plenty of ammunition to campaign on. Think about it. Principal got into trouble because they were making bad mortgage loans. Do we really need another member of congress who was somewhat responsible for collapse of the real estate markets? Aren’t Barney Frank and Chris Dodd enough?
At the end of the day, people like Barry Griswell are concerned about their own legacy. Is he willing to put all that he has accomplished on the line to take on an icon like Grassley? Look, I can see him having these conversations while having lunch with his buddies with the Des Moines Partnership, but talking about it and pulling the trigger are two very different things.
While I think that Senator Grassley is susceptible to a primary challenge, I think he would be extremely difficult to beat in a general election campaign. To knock of Grassley, it’s going to take millions of dollars, and even then I don’t know if all the money in the world could knock Grassley off this year. It would take a special candidate, and like I said, I don’t think a rich white man who likes to donate to Republicans is a silver bullet for Democrats.
Additionally, if I’m Governor Culver, I don’t like this chatter. A significant challenge to Grassley would divert a bunch of campaign money away from his gubernatorial campaign, and by the looks of things, he’s going to need every dime he can get.
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