Representative Tom Latham (IA-03) told journalists in Washington yesterday that he is thinking about running for the U.S. Senate in 2014. He declined to specify when he will announce his plans, but he said he will "make my own decision" rather than be influenced by Representative Steve King (IA-04). Deirdre Walsh reported for CNN,
Pressed if he thinks a Senate bid by King could hurt the GOP’s chances of taking the seat – something other national Republicans have expressed concerns over – Latham told reporters outside the House floor that King is “a very viable member of Congress.”
If Latham wants the Senate seat, he would be advised to announce sooner rather than later. A few days ago, King told conservative talk radio host Larry O’Connor that he is “fifty-fifty” on running for the Senate seat. Click through to listen to King’s comments. In weighing his decision, he is considering “whether the energy is out there” to support his bid and “whether we can raise the money” for a statewide race. I still expect King to stay in IA-04, where he’s safe for the next decade, but he may be tempted to take on the Republican establishment.
The least likely scenario in my mind is Latham and King running against each other in a GOP primary. If one of them announces a Senate campaign, the other will stay out. A new Wenzel Strategies poll of “likely Republican primary voters” in Iowa found that King would be the early leader in a Senate primary, with Latham in second place and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds third. Public Policy Polling surveyed Iowa Republicans over the weekend and found King leading among moderates as well as among respondents who described themselves as “very conservative.”
UPDATE: I missed this story at the Rothenberg Political Report last night. Latham’s changing the name of his campaign committee from “Latham for Congress” to “Iowans for Latham.”
SECOND UPDATE: Michael Devine, a talk radio host for KVFD AM 1400 in Fort Dodge, posted on Facebook today, “Congressman Steve King told us this morning the chances are ‘better than 50 percent’ he will run for the Senate.”
THIRD UPDATE: Excerpts from Public Policy Polling’s latest Iowa poll findings are after the jump.
Public Policy Polling "surveyed 846 Iowa voters as well as 326 usual Republican primary voters from February 1st to 3rd. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/-3.4% overall and +/- 5.4% for the GOP portion." Key findings:
In a hypothetical four-way Republican primary contest, King would lead the pack with 41% support, followed by 22% for Tom Latham, 10% for Kim Reynolds and 9% for Bob Vander Plaats. 17% were not sure who they want as next year’s Republican nominee. 49% of very conservative primary voters would back King.
63% of primary voters view King favorably to 12% unfavorably. King would also be the clear choice if he were only running against Latham and Vander Plaats or just Latham.
King is down by 7 to 11 points against Bruce Braley (38/49), Tom Vilsack (39/49), Dave Loebsack (40/47) and Chet Culver (41/48). King loses moderate voters by roughly 40 points or more against each of these Democrats. […]
Republicans would be much more competitive with Latham as their Senate candidate, partly because he attracts more moderate voters. Latham trails Braley by 3 points (41/44) and Vilsack by 4 points (46/42), and he leads Culver by 4 points (45/41) and Loebsack by 3 points (43/40). All of these results are within the margin of error. Latham’s +14 favorability rating is significantly higher than the other GOP candidates who might run.
PPP’s Tom Jensen concluded,
Overall Democrats appear to start out slightly favored in the race to replace Tom Harkin, and if a hard conservative like King or Vander Plaats wins the nomination they will start out with a pretty substantial advantage. Latham would start out behind Braley or Vilsack too, but would at least be within striking distance.
About 49 percent of respondents in the latest PPP poll approve of President Barack Obama’s job performance, while 47 percent disapprove.
The poll didn’t ask about current Governor Terry Branstad, but among former governors, Tom Vilsack is much more popular than Chet Culver. Vilsack’s favorability numbers were 51 percent favorable, 36 percent unfavorable, 13 percent unsure. Culver’s were 34 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable, and 20 percent unsure.