IA-SEN: Latest comments from Latham and King

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.

  • Dems Leading in Early Polls

    PPP conducted 16 match ups for Iowa senate. They polled for Braley, Loebsack, Vilsack (Tom), and Culver against Latham, King, Vander Plaats, and Kim Reynolds.

    Loebsack and Culver both trailed Latham, but Dems led in every other pairing.


    • Latham worries me

      frankly. I don’t think it’s meaningful that he is a little behind in this poll.

      • was thinking the same thing

        amiable, non descript, safe choice for no parties…

        • Latham has only ever lost 3 counties

          after running for Congress 10 times. Not encouraging.

          He doesn’t do much, so you can’t pin a lot on him. Boswell’s people couldn’t come up with anything better than “the Latham family bank.”

          • turn it around

            I think the Dems have been going about it the wrong way.  It is true that there is little record to pin on Latham, but after 10 years that should be able to be used as a liability.  You could even do it in a bipartisan way:

            “Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley have been fighters for Iowans and for Iowa, leaders in the Congress and in their parties.  Senator Harkin co-authored one of the most important protections for Iowans and all Americans with disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Senator Grassley is well known for taking on his own party to combat fraud and waste in defense spending.  And after a decade in Congress, what is Tom Latham known for?  Tom Latham wants a promotion — but he hasn’t done anything with the job he’s got.  Iowa can do better.”  

            • oops

              10 terms, not 10 years.  which only makes the argument stronger.  

            • in theory, I agree with you

              Having nothing to show for 20 years in Congress isn’t a great resume to run for the Senate on. However, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, he has brought a fair amount of money back to his district, and he has generally avoided putting his foot in his mouth.

              I still think Latham won’t run for Senate. He has a comfortable position now, which doesn’t require a lot of work on his part. He’s in the majority caucus, chairing a subcommittee, and on good terms with the House speaker. If he runs for the Senate, it’s not a sure thing, it will be more work, including a lot more travel. Even if he wins, he’ll start out very low on the totem pole, possibly in the minority party.

              • timing

                In that “does just enough positive, but not enough to upset anyone” way, Latham reminds me a bit of Governor Ray without the charm (and the openness to immigrants).

                But I tend to agree with you that he wont run.  The timing is all wrong — had he served his new district a couple of terms, it would be a lot easier to make the leap.  Still, it is hard to imagine both King and Latham passing it up because open Senate seats don’t come around every day.  If King passes (which he should, but he wouldn’t be the first politician to reach an “up or out” feeling in their office), it is hard to imagine Latham also passing on what would then be a pretty easy nomination and a tolerable shot at the senate seat.  

  • Polling

    I think you could knock Latham off his game with the right general election candidate, but it probably isn’t Bruce Braley.  If Latham is trailing it would be due to the fact that he isn’t that well known in the entire state.  The current polling would be Gemeric D V.S Generic R.  I think the only person with near universal name identification in that poll would be Tom Vilsack.  

    • I do think Tom Vilsack

      would be well-positioned to beat Tom Latham, but I don’t think Vilsack is interested in running for the Senate. I suppose anything can happen.

      • Latham

        You’re right, Vilsack will not run.  O think there is simply too much pressure on Latham from the Branstad wing of the party for him not to run.  

        I never really got the impression that Latham was anti-immigrant, but I’m sure that he’s signed to some less than ideal legislation on the matter.  A lot of people in both parties sign on to legislation that they don’t actually want to see passed, it just helps them dodge a primary.  

        Brad Schneider in Illinois is a perfect example of a guy that bends over backwards in a smart attempt to try to please everyone.  

        • you can be sure

          Branstad’s people and the NRSC are leaning on Latham to run. It will be an easier sell if King removes himself from the competition. If King declares, I don’t see Latham running in the Senate primary.

          Latham never did put out a statement about immigration reform proposals last week. Of the Iowans in Congress, his office sends out the fewest press releases by far. He gives the strong impression of wanting to avoid comment on most issues.

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