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Steve King Won't Run for Senate, Leaving Iowa Republicans Empty-Handed Steve King Won't Run for Senate, Leaving Iowa Republicans Empty-Handed

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Steve King Won't Run for Senate, Leaving Iowa Republicans Empty-Handed

Rep. Steve King announced he's not running for the Senate, a move that leaves the Republican field wide-open.(Richard A. Bloom)

Iowa Rep. Steve King won't be running for Senate, he announced in a tweet Friday night. The conservative firebrand had frozen the GOP field, as his entry into the race would have made him the favorite for the nomination.

King, like Rep. Tom Latham before him, cited work in the House as reason not to run. He was initially seen as likely to join the race -- especially after Latham announced he wasn't running -- but low fundraising numbers and long indecision made political observers second-guess his ambition.

This week, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said Iowa didn't need "another congressman" in the upper chamber, a shot at Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley that also implicated King. Though clearly frustrated with the Branstad quote, King added fuel to the fire soon after by saying he was "embarrassed" at not reaching a decision.

Meanwhile, the GOP's crop of top-tier candidates -- backups should King not run -- emerged, expressed their interest, then bowed out before King reached a decision. Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, both of whom grabbed the spotlight after Latham's decision, announced recently they wouldn't join the race; Northey urged King to run in his announcement.

Now attention turns to the rest of the field, and Republicans have said they expect a contested primary without King. Former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker has said he'll run if King doesn't, and some GOP operatives like his no-nonsense demeanor and football-playing past at the University of Iowa. Secretary of State Matt Schultz is seen as a rising star in the party, and state Sens. Joni Ernst and Brad Zaun are also possibilities.

Another option? Latham, who some have said is rethinking his decision after the GOP's top candidates failed to step up. He referenced the speculation in an email to supporters this week, saying he was "seriously reconsidering" ... if spring would ever arrive in Iowa.

On the Democratic side, Braley has cleared the field and posted a fundraising head start of more than $1 million in the first quarter.

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