Republican Senator Charles Grassley says if he endorses a presidential candidate, it won’t happen until this fall. But Iowa’s top-ranking Republican may stay neutral during the lead-up to the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. "I may decide to stay out so I can be unifier — after the fact — for our party," Grassley says.
In 1996, Grassley endorsed former Kansas Senator Bob Dole and campaigned extensively throughout the state on Dole’s behalf. Grassley isn’t revealing which presidential candidate has the best shot at getting his backing this time around, but Grassley is offering a critique of the leading candidates.
Fellow Senator John McCain’s chances are linked to Iraq, according to Grassley. "The attitude towards the war among the public, generally, may be affecting him. He’s taken a very strong position in support of the president and I think the outcome of this latest effort in Iraq is going to have a real impact on whether John McCain will be an outstanding candidate or not," Grassley says.
The leading money-raiser among Republican presidential hopefuls, so far, has been former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. While some evangelical Christians in Grassley’s party have expressed concerns about Romney’s faith, Grassley predicts it will have little impact. "It wasn’t a problem for Kennedy, being a Catholic," Grassley says. "I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for Mitt Romney, being a Mormon."
And Grassley says former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has a shot at winning support from conservatives this time around because Republicans "are interested in keeping the presidency" and will take less of a "litmus-test approach" to choosing their presidential nominee. "I think he’ll do very well…because I think that we’re looking to get the strongest possible candidate we can," Grassley says. "…We think with this Democrat congress going hog-wild that we’ve got an opportunity to keep the presidency."
As to his own political future, Grassley says he intends to run for re-election in 2010. Grassley made his comments during taping of the Iowa Public Television program "Iowa Press" which airs tonight.