CEDAR RAPIDS | The race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is wide open, but U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley doesn’t expect to endorse any one of the nearly two dozen potential candidates.

However, he won’t rule out breaking with his practice not to endorse anyone running in Iowa's first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses.

“Right now, the answer is ‘no,’ but I think you ought to continually ask me,” Grassley said Wednesday during a conference call with Iowa reporters.

“My practice would say I’m not going to get involved, but I wouldn’t want to say that I’m never going to get involved,” Grassley said.

Over the past 30 years Grassley has endorsed just twice. In 1996, he backed Kansas Sen. Bob Dole over a field that included Lamar Alexander, Pat Buchanan, Phil Gramm and Arlen Specter/. On 2000, he endorsed Texas Gov. George W. Bush over Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes and John McCain.

His non-endorsement practice hasn’t stopped Republicans who are eyeing the race from calling on Grassley. The New Hartford native said he tells them he won’t get involved.

“But I’m going to encourage everybody to come to Iowa … even people that maybe I don’t agree with,” he said. “I don’t think there are too many candidates I would disagree with. I probably disagree with them on certain issues but not on their general approach."

He doesn’t see any reason for potential candidates to avoid U.S. Rep. Steve King’s Jan. 24 Freedom Summit in Des Moines. It will be so-sponsored by Citizens United. So far, the confirmed speakers are Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The summit will give candidates the chance to introduce themselves to Iowans, he said.

“That’s the purpose of it,” Grassley said. “The purpose of it has nothing to do with King, it has something to do with preserving the first-in-the-nation caucuses and, hopefully, doing things to enhance the Republican Party’s goals in Iowa.”

Comments: 319 398-8375; James.Lynch@TheGazette.com

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