Run, Steve, Run!

Word’s just in that U.S. Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) will not run for Tom Harkin’s open Senate seat in 2014. He was far-and-away the favorite among Republicans more interested in winning the seat than in ideology, particularly since the most likely alternative, the fire-eating nativist and all-around wingnut, Latham’s House colleague Steve King, has been trailing probable Democratic nominee Bruce Braley in early trial heats. And it was widely rumored King would defer to Latham because the latter did the former the courtesy of running in a different district in 2012 when their previous districts were combined after redistricting.

National pundits will immediately attribute this development to the heavy-handed statement by Karl Rove’s hireling at American Crossroads that its new Conservative Victory Fund would try to keep King from taking the Senate nomination–which King immediately used to raise money, and which might have ultimately provoked him into jumping in. There’s really no telling what happened behind the scenes. And King hasn’t made a move yet, though if he wants the nomination, it’s hard to think of anyone other than Latham who could come close to beating him in a primary (not even Gov. Terry Branstad, in the unlikely event he could be talked into a vicious Senate race instead of running for his sixth term as governor or just hanging it up).

But Democrats should not engage in any premature celebrations: crazy as he is, King is a wily and effective retail politician who will be rolling in national right-wing money.

There is one interesting footnote to today’s developments. Latham’s statement of non-candidacy had this interesting explanation of his decision:

[O]nly 56 days ago I took an oath to “faithfully discharge the duties” of an office with which the people of Iowa’s Third Congressional District entrusted to me. I cannot in good conscience launch a two-year statewide campaign that will detract from the commitment I made to the people who elected me, at a time when our nation desperately needs less campaigning and more leadership.

Hard to see how King wouldn’t be doing exactly the same thing. Whoever wrote Latham’s statement should have thought of that. Or maybe he/she knew more about King’s intentions than the rest of us.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.