Via Twitter, as seems to be today’s norm for declining to run for political office, Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4) announced yesterday that he will not seek Iowa’s open Senate seat next year.
“I will not run for Senate in 2014. A Senate race takes me out of urgent battles in Congress that can’t wait until 2015,” King tweeted. “Many thanks to all.” Obviously, the message is an indication that he will continue his congressional service in the House, and is at least a tacit indication that he will seek re-election.
The move is likely a politically intelligent one for the congressman, even though he was virtually assured of the Republican nomination. Polling was explicit that the conservative King was the top choice of Iowa GOP primary voters. But, it was also obvious that he was fighting major head winds in the general election, and not just from Democrats.
Prior to Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D) announcement earlier in the year that he would not seek re-election in 2014, former George W. Bush political chief Karl Rove announced the formation of his Conservative Victory Project, which is designed to unite the Republicans around a winnable general election candidate. It was made painfully clear upon Sen. Harkin’s announcement that Rove does not believe King can win statewide, leading to him making public overtures for Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-3) to run.
But the Rove ploy backfired. Instead of uniting the party, his actions have helped widen the divide between moderates and conservatives. King understood that comments coming from Rove and other national Republican leaders professing their belief that he is too outspokenly conservative to win in Iowa undermined any chance he had of defeating a Democrat in the general election. The problem is, since virtually all of the other strong Republican potential candidates, i.e., Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Latham, state Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, have already removed themselves from the race the Republicans are presently left with no one to oppose Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1), the consensus Democratic candidate.
Undoubtedly, there will eventually be a GOP standard bearer, but the party infighting has given Braley a decided edge for the general election. The Democrats almost always begin an Iowa campaign in the favorite’s position, but Republicans are competitive in the state so a Braley victory should not be a foregone conclusion, particularly so early in a mid-term election. With the GOP needing to convert every opportunity to have a chance at wresting the Senate majority away from the Democrats, their machinations in Iowa may have forfeited a key battleground.
Today is Election Day in South Carolina in the highly publicized battle between beleaguered ex-governor Mark Sanford (R) and university official Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D). New polling shows Sanford now pulling himself back into a dead heat as the people begin to cast their ballots.
Always in special elections, the turnout level will go a long way to deciding the outcome. The fact that, with all of his well-known scandals, a Sanford victory is even possible is due to the district’s heavy Republican nature. Therefore, it is likely that a higher-than-expected turnout will favor the former governor. If the turnout is low, then Busch will likely prevail.
It should be an interesting night.