Back when Janet Napolitano and Kathleen Sebelius joined the Obama Cabinet, there was a lot of unhappiness about how it would deprive us of two excellent Senate challengers in 2010. The unhappy people were, certainly, right to be displeased. I don't remember anybody saying the same thing about Tom Vilsack, but I'm starting to wonder if we should've felt the same way about his appointment to Agriculture too. I have no idea if he could've been talked into running, but he's a two-term ex-governor in a state where we lack any major Senate challenger for Chuck Grassley. 538 tells us that the seat is the 20th most likely to change hands.
Grassley may be the single biggest Republican obstacle to health care progress in all of Congress, simply because of his close relationship with Senate Finance chairman Max Baucus, which translates into an ability to freeze Baucus into inactivity. Look at the Grassley twitter feed:
PTL BluDogs Keep barkin Pelosie bill is Govt takeovr of healthCare Breaks Obama promise"keep what u hv" Puts Wash Burocrats in chrg MUSTSTOPWith no serious general-election challenger, all Grassley has to worry about is a primary challenge if he doesn't stick tightly enough to right-wing MUSTSTOP dogma. There's nobody to call him out on being an obstacle to reform, or pressure him to do anything constructive.
I'm taken aback that we can't find anybody else to jump into the race in Iowa. I mean, the state is full of good Democrats -- we've got a 32-18 majority in the state Senate, an attorney general coming off his 4th consecutive term, and a Lieutenant Governor. Sure, Grassley is a powerful incumbent, but a lot of GOP incumbents have gone down over the last couple cycles. Obama has always been popular in the state. You'd think people would be jumping in.