With indications this week that Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, might be leaning toward a re-election bid, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky told Hotline On Call she thinks it's unlikely he will vacate his seat in 2014.
"The indications -- the fundraising indications, the chatter, indicates to me that Sen. Harkin is seriously considering running again," Dvorsky said. "It seems fairly clear to us that that's what we should be planning on."
That comes after reports that Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, considered a likely Senate candidate should Harkin retire, is exploring a run for governor. Dvorsky said Harkin's decision likely will come soon, as she anticipates it will have a domino effect on a cycle in which Democrats will need an early start in the gubernatorial race.
"Sen. Harkin's decision will come earlier, and that's a pretty clear thing," Dvorsky said. "The discussions about '14 are going to happen fairly rapidly."
Dvorsky said the next few months will be an indicator of whether Republican Gov. Terry Branstad plans on running for another term, but Democrats have little time to waste if they hope to mount a serious challenge.
"Whoever runs against [Branstad] is going to have to start very, very early," Dvorsky said. "It doesn't matter who it is. [Branstad's] going to start with 105 percent name recognition."
If Braley chooses to mount a challenge, she said, it might cause other Democratic hopefuls to reassess entering the race. Braley would start with a big advantage in name recognition and fundraising connections, making him the early favorite for the Democratic nomination. Braley also owns a solid base of support in Iowa's labor and progressive coalitions.
Dvorsky expects to see a much clearer picture of the Democratic field by May or June. "When the Jenga blocks start to fall, they'll fall fast," Dvorsky said.
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