Chuck Grassley

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, speaks to members of the Sioux City Rotary Club at the Sioux City Convention Center on Monday.

Bret Hayworth, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley on Monday said people who doubt that outspoken Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump can be elected president should remember that Ronald Reagan shifted gears in his 1980 victory.

"Everybody thought a movie star could not be a president of the United States," Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

During a Q&A at the Sioux City Rotary Club meeting, Grassley was asked if he thought Trump, a blunt-spoken business mogul who has received criticism for controversial statements on immigrants and other people, would stick with a new plan to moderate his remarks by sticking to scripted speeches. Grassley responded with the comparison to Reagan, and added that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton also speaks in ways that upset some people.

"It is just as bad as Hillary trying to advocate him to the Ku Klux Klan, which is in her advertisements," Grassley said, of an August campaign ad by Clinton that links Trump's to some white supremacists.

Clinton is leading nationally and in many other swing states, but polls in Iowa show a close race.

Grassley said he isn't trying to talk people into voting for Trump, telling the dozens of Rotarians to "look at all the candidates and satisfy yourself." He added that a vote for Clinton would extend the eight-year trend of policies under Democratic President Barack Obama, which Grassley cited as resulting in high taxes and regulations and stagnant income growth for the middle class.

Grassley, 82, is running for his seventh, six-year term in November against Democrat Patty Judge, a former Iowa lieutenant governor and secretary of agriculture.

At the Rotary meeting at the Convention Center, Grassley fielded 10 questions, including two on the presidential race and two on the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy that began in February when Justice Antonin Scalia died. Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Commitee chairman, has continued refusals to hold hearings to fill the vacancy until after a new president is inaugurated in January. Obama nominated appeals court judge Merrick Garland for the open spot on the nine-member Supreme Court.

Grassley said there has been a well-accepted "understanding" in Senate since 1987 that no Supreme Court vacancies should be filled in the final year of a presidential term.

"It had nothing to do with Garland (personally)," Grassley said.

Grassley said the only way his stance could change is if a large number of senators strongly urged him to consider the nomination during a so-called "lame-duck session," of Congress, during the time after the Nov. 8 election and before the new Congress takes office in January.

While in Northwest Iowa Monday, Grassley also:

-- Commended local law enforcement officials involved in the successful arrest and prosecution of Jamal Dean during a stop at Sioux City Police headquarters. Last week, Grassley attended a ceremony in Washington where the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives presented the Distinguished Service Medal to ATF Special Agent Todd Monney and the ATF Honor Award to Assistant U.S. Attorney Forde Fairchild and Sioux City police detectives Troy Hansen and Kevin McCormick.

Dean, 24, was sentenced to life in prison in January 2015 after being found guilty in federal court of several charges in connection with two separate robberies of cash, drugs and cars from drug dealers in April 2013. He's also serving 25 years in prison on a state charge of attempted murder for the April 29, 2013, shooting of McCormick during a traffic stop.

-- Toured the Sioux Honey Association's Sioux City offices and plant and took part in a Q&A with employees at the facility, which packages the Sue Bee Honey brand. Grassley said he was asked to help resolve a dispute over funds collected by World Trade Organization sanctions involving the dumping of Chinese honey on the U.S. market. At issue is the interest on the money, which has been been held in trust pending distribution to U.S. honey producers, he said.

-- Took part in a town hall meeting in Cherokee, Iowa. He will have one more Siouxland stop on Tuesday, when he holds a 10:15 a.m. town hall meeting at the Sioux Rapids Memorial Library, 215 Second St.

None of Grassley's stops in the area were official campaign events.

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County and education reporter

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