Rep. Bruce Braley is in the clear. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will not run for Iowa's open Senate seat in 2014, a longtime aide told the Des Moines Register, leaving the 1st District representative far and away the favorite to earn the Democratic nomination.
State and national Democrats viewed Braley as the likely successor to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, saying he had the potential to clear the primary field. But the day after he announced his campaign, a front-page Register poll showed Vilsack was widely considered Democrats' most appealing candidate -- likely a product of the former governor's statewide name recognition. But with Braley's early entry into the race, that polling didn't prove enough to coax Vilsack into a bid.
Braley wouldn't speculate on the likelihood of a primary in an interview with Hotline On Call earlier this week, but one national Democrat said he's the clear frontrunner. "It seems like Democrats in the state are coalescing around Braley," said the operative. "Republicans are looking like they're going to have a contentious primary, and it doesn't look like that's going to happen on the Democratic side."
Former Gov. Chet Culver has also been mentioned as a possible candidate -- his father served a term in the Senate -- but with early support rallying to Braley, it would be an uphill battle for him to mount a primary challenge.