At face value, there was nothing especially surprising about Donald Trump's remarks in Iowa on Saturday night. The former president did what he always does: He pretended he won the election he lost, peddling absurd lies that were discredited months ago.
More interesting was the broader political context. The Associated Press reported after the Republican's event:
Republican Sen. Charles Grassley and Gov. Kim Reynolds embraced Donald Trump's return to Iowa on Saturday, standing by the former president as he repeated his false claims of voter fraud and a stolen election to a crowd of thousands. The state's senior senator, who recently announced plans to run for an eighth six-year term, praised Trump as he introduced him by noting there was "a great crowd honoring a great president of the United States."
Reynolds, another candidate on the 2022 ballot, also "gushed with praise" for Trump in her brief remarks.
When the AP asked Grassley and Reynolds whether they agreed with the former president's anti-election rhetoric, including Trump's recent assertion that the 2020 presidential election itself represented "the real insurrection" was the election, the Iowa Republicans refused to comment.
It was just eight months ago when Grassley said, "President Trump continued to argue that the election had been stolen even though the courts didn't back up his claims. He belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way. He encouraged his own, loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count.... There's no doubt in my mind that President Trump's language was extreme, aggressive, and irresponsible."
In other words, Iowa's senior senator knows Trump lied. He also knows the corrosive effects and dangerous consequences those lies can have. But Grassley is willing to play along anyway.
Why? Because at Saturday night's event, the former president told his followers that the longtime GOP incumbent has his "complete and total endorsement."
Grassley added, "I was born at night but not last night. So if I didn't accept the endorsement of a person that's got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn't be too smart. I'm smart enough to accept that endorsement."
In other words, Iowa Republicans like the failed former president; Grassley wants the votes of Iowa Republicans; so the senator is prioritizing his own interests — with little regard for propriety.
A Politico report added that the most important takeaway from Saturday night was the support the former president received, not from the crowd, but from Grassley, Reynolds, Iowa U.S. Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson, former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, and Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann.
"Trump has held rallies since leaving the White House," the article noted. "But never have elected Republicans of such tenure and stature appeared with him. And the presence of Grassley in particular signified that whatever qualms the GOP may have had with Trump are now faded memories; whatever questions they had about the direction of the party have been resolved."
Politico ran a separate headline that read, "GOP hands Trump the party."
It's likely that Grassley will celebrate the apparent bargain: In exchange for votes, the longtime senator will publicly sing the praises of a corrupt former president whose overt hostility toward democracy is increasingly obvious.
Grassley recently turned 88; on Election Day 2022 he'll be 89. At this age, many prominent political officials pause to think about their legacies and how their careers will be remembered. It's a shame the Iowa Republican, who first began serving in Congress in 1975, is comfortable tying himself to Trump at this point as a way to advance his own ambitions.