WASHINGTON — Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is assembling a mental list of the many pros and cons that come with a 2014 Senate bid.
It's a tempting opportunity.
Just consider: Sen. Tom Harkin's decision not to run for re-election means Iowa will have its first open Senate race in 40 years.
King first must consider whether he can compete in a statewide race.
His hard-line, take-no-prisoners conservative style on hot-button issues such as immigration made him a favorite of cable television programs and raised his national profile.
But his past statements could make it difficult to win over moderates and independents.
Public Policy Polling released survey results Tuesday that showed King would start out strongly in a bid for the Republican Senate nomination but would face an uphill challenge against the leading potential Democratic candidates.
For his part, King says he's confident that he could compete in a statewide race. He pointed to the examples of two moderate Republicans who won statewide races for governor in blue states — Chris Christie in New Jersey and Mitt Romney in Massachusetts — and a conservative who won Pennsylvania's Senate seat, Pat Toomey.
“Show me the list of candidates that conventional wisdom said could win, and where are they today? Many of them are former politicians,” King said.
King also will have to consider whether he would face a primary contest against a home-state colleague, Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa.
Latham, who represents Council Bluffs and southwest Iowa, told The World-Herald on Tuesday that he is weighing everything. And he suggested the state could be in for a hot race.
“It's the first time since, what, '74 or something, there hasn't been an incumbent in the running for Senate, so it'll be different for Iowa,” Latham said. “It's a purple state, so it'll always be competitive.”
King may have to contend with outside Republican groups eager to see the most moderate candidate win the primary.
The New York Times reported Sunday that the big GOP super PAC American Crossroads is starting a new effort called the Conservative Victory Project, which is aimed at ensuring that Republican Senate primaries are won by electable candidates.
Republicans lost several races in 2012 that many thought they should have won. Observers blamed undisciplined candidates. A prime example was in Missouri, where Todd Akin's comments about rape and abortion doomed his candidacy and caused headaches for Republican candidates everywhere.
“We're concerned about Steve King's Todd Akin problem,” Steven J. Law, president of American Crossroads, told the New York Times. “This is an example of candidate discipline and how it would play in a general election. All of the things he's said are going to be hung around his neck.”
Asked about the potential role of outside Republican groups, King said Iowans will make the ultimate decision. He also noted that he won re-election last year despite substantial spending against him by outside groups and a well-funded opponent in Christie Vilsack, the state's former first lady.
In theory, the Senate race could become another King-Vilsack contest, except this time it would be Christie's husband, Tom, on the ballot. The former Iowa governor is now President Barack Obama's secretary of agriculture, but he could be enticed into leaving the Cabinet to seek the Senate seat.
Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, also is a leading contender among the Democrats.
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