Mahoney: Iowa’s two GOP senators flex Iowa’s political muscle

Iowa’s GOP senators take up powerful positions in the new Congress. This is no random occurrence; this is purposeful.

Sen.+Joni+Ernst%2C+R-Iowa%2C+speaks+during+the+fourth+annual+Roast+and+Ride+fundraiser+in+Boone%2C+Iowa+on+Saturday%2C+June+9%2C+2018.+The+event+raises+money+for+veterans%27+charities+and+provides+a+platform+for+state+and+national+Republican+officials+to+speak.+

Nick Rohlman

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, speaks during the fourth annual Roast and Ride fundraiser in Boone, Iowa on Saturday, June 9, 2018. The event raises money for veterans' charities and provides a platform for state and national Republican officials to speak.

Collen Mahoney, Opinion Columnist

As the new split Congress gears up to take over in January, Republicans (who managed to maintain control of the Senate) are changing their leadership. With the 2020 presidential race also appearing to pick up a little steam, Iowa’s two GOP senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, made leaps to secure Iowa’s place as a political powerhouse and set it up for its 2020 début.

With the departure of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the Senate needed to find a new president pro tem, the person tasked with presiding over the Senate when the vice president is not and the person who is third in line for the presidency. This position is usually given to the most senior senator of the majority party, which in the new Senate is Grassley. He has also said he will seek to leave the Judiciary Committee and move back to head the Finance Committee, a position he has previously held.

Meanwhile, Iowa’s junior senator, Ernst, has been looking to pick up a title herself. One of five Republican women in the Senate, she will take the position of vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference. This makes her the first woman elected to Senate Republican leadership since 2010.

So, what does all this mean?

RELATED: Grassley trades Judiciary leadership for Senate Finance Chairmanship

Well, it depends on how you look at it. You could look at it as just a Senate shuffle after a rough national election. Sure, that’s probably an OK way to look at it. But, consider this: We’re approaching a presidential election year. Iowa sets off the election year and historically has been considered a swing state.

What else? Republican President Donald Trump’s average disapproval rating is 52.4 percent to an approval rating of 43.8 percent. So, it could be possible that Senate Republicans are making a play, showing off Iowa’s top Republicans in leadership positions to sort of say to the state, “Look, Republicans you elect do a good job and are leaders.” This could be sort of a nudge to Iowans saying, “Please elect Donald Trump again, we know you don’t really like him, but it would help us out a lot, OK, thanks, bye.”

RELATED: Ernst elected to Republican leadership in U.S. Senate

Grassley is a political powerhouse. Managing to maintain his position and fend off challengers for nearly 40 years in a state that has a purple status is a sight to behold. And Ernst’s shocking rise to political power is certainly nothing to laugh at. So, when they hit the campaign trail, showing off their new titles, Grassley can tout to Iowans the times he has worked to push through some of Trump’s judicial nominees (which some Iowans may be happy about), and Ernst can show off her ability to lead in the Senate as a Republican woman, showing off what she sees as advancements the party has made.

These elections are no mistake. They are purposeful. They are meant to establish Republican power in Iowa, to at least push through to the 2020 elections, when Ernst will be on the ballot, likely alongside Trump. It’s a reach for maintaining a grasp on power; the question is, will it work?

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