Sen. Tom Harkin’s retirement makes the Iowa Senate seat more competitive by virtue of the six-term Democrat’s departure. Couple that with the Hawkeye State’s competitive nature, and this race could be one of the most targeted of the 2014 cycle.
Accordingly, CQ Roll Call now characterizes the Iowa Senate race as Leans Democratic, after previously rating the contest as Likely Democratic.
Harkin was favored for re-election, thanks in part to the $2.7 million he had in the bank. Today, the seat is in play — although it does not yet join the most competitive echelon of 2014 Senate races.
For this race to become a top target in 2014, the GOP must circumvent a divisive primary.
Two Iowa Republicans, Reps. Steve King and Tom Latham, are looking at running — along with a list of other less well-known GOP officials such Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.
A conservative firebrand, King will be tough to beat in a GOP primary, but he would have a more difficult path to victory in the general election. Latham is a more appealing general election candidate, having represented 55 of the Hawkeye State’s 99 counties in his long career.
Democrats already have a candidate primed for a statewide contest: Rep. Bruce Braley, a four-term Congressman from the eastern part of the state, expressed interest in the race on Sunday.
Former governor and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, or his wife, former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack, could also run although neither has publicly stated they are looking at the race yet. Even so, it’s more likely Democrats will avoid a primary here than Republicans.