Political Animal


January 26, 2013 11:54 AM Another Dem to leave the Senate — Harkin announces imminent retirement

By Samuel Knight

From Democrats’ point of view, Tom Harkin probably couldn’t have picked a worse time to announce his impending retirement — a move he made this morning.

With John Kerry expected to be confirmed as Secretary of State next week, Tom Udall rumored to be one of President Obama’s choices for Secretary of the Interior, and Jay Rockefeller declining to seek re-election next year, Harkin’s decision to retire at the end of his term makes the Democratic Party’s post-2014 grasp on the Senate look more tenuous then ever.

But while Scott Brown appears set to win his second special election and Shelley Moore Capito is the favorite to fill Rockefeller’s shoes, Democrats can take solace in the fact that there’s a decent chance of Harkin’s seat remaining on their side of the aisle. Iowa has voted for Democrats in six out of the last seven Presidential campaigns, with urbanization helping state Dems buck the decades long tradition of Republican dominance.

The Midwestern state might face a sea of red along its western border, but there are plenty of leftish voters there ready for the fight to keep Harkin’s seat blue.

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.


  • sjw on January 26, 2013 12:57 PM:

    Perhaps a push to his decision came with the kick in the teeth on filibuster reform provided by the Senate leader.

  • Mimikatz on January 26, 2013 1:14 PM:

    Why assume Scott "Captcha" Brown is set to win his second special election? Ed Markey is not Martha Coakley, and Mass voters may remember how well it worked for them not to go to the polls in 2009. Plus Brown didn't wear so well in his last election.

  • John on January 26, 2013 1:28 PM:

    Udall is really up for Interior? That seems totally idiotic - just a gratuitous effort to immediately lose a Senate seat and have a Republican incumbent rather than a popular Democratic one up next year. WTF?

  • FlipYrWhig on January 26, 2013 1:31 PM:

    Which state is home to more Democrats, Iowa or Massachusetts? Strange analysis.

  • Hyde on January 26, 2013 1:52 PM:

    Raiding the Senate to staff the Cabinet is an utterly insane idea. Presidents are already vulnerable enough in the 6-year midterm election without Obama making things harder for himself. Seriously, what can Tom Udall do at Interior that some anonymous bureaucrat couldn't do just as well?

  • CaseyL on January 26, 2013 2:06 PM:

    Seriously, what can Tom Udall do at Interior that some anonymous bureaucrat couldn't do just as well?

    Get confirmed by the Senate.

  • JR on January 26, 2013 2:37 PM:

    "Which state is home to more Democrats, Iowa or Massachusetts? Strange analysis."

    Similar to what Kilgore posted about Georgia, Iowa will surely bring out the crazy. As the loony-tunes push the GOP further to the cliff on the right, it increases the possibility of a centrist Democrat winning the seat. Just look at Missouri and Indiana...

    I'll bet crazy Steve King already thinks he has Harkin's seat in the bag. If Christie Vilsack, who barely lost to him in their House race, challenges him statewide, it could be interesting.

  • c u n d gulag on January 26, 2013 2:38 PM:


    The least President Obama could do, is get these cabinet positions filled from Democratic states, with Democratic Governors.

    Why does he insist on cutting off his nose, to spite his face?

    And CaseyL brings up a good point - but, maybe Obama should have put the squeeze on Ol' "(Non) Fightin'" Harry Reid, to stop having gentlemens agreements with people who are far from gentlemen, so that the Republicans would have had to either get 41 in a caucus, or get up off of their fat @$$es, to block a nomination!

  • Upper West on January 26, 2013 3:15 PM:

    What's the basis for the conclusion that Brown will win? Only name recognition polls? Dems goal across the country is to make the midterms into a Presidential-turnout election. I think rank and file Dems are certainly more motivated than in 2010 -- in MA and elsewhere. And Warren set the blueprint for exposing Brown's phony centrism.

    Is this writer the same guy who wrote during the campaign that Warren's "tribal" problem "was not going away" without any evidence (and just before it did, essentially go away).

    If so, I suspect a Brown mole.

  • Samuel Knight on January 26, 2013 5:16 PM:

    My argument that Brown looks likely to win Kerry's seat is based on an early poll.

    "The latest survey from MassINC Polling Group showed Brown easily cruising in a hypothetical matchup against Markey. Fifty-three percent of registered Bay State voters said they would support Brown, compared with just 31 percent who indicated they would vote for Markey."


    Granted, that's liable to change as Markey's profile is raised, but the margin is pretty wide thus far. I don't think it's a stretch to say that it's Brown's race to lose, bqhatevwr mild gaffes he has recently made.

  • bigtuna on January 26, 2013 6:09 PM:

    Echoing above - WHY nominate a sitting young Dem senator from CO for interior? STUPID. Interior is a black hole of goo. Why waste talent there? Find some western Dem willing to do it who is not in office. Brian Switzer -former MT guv; or find some hack. But a sitting senator ?!?@!! No !!!!!!!! YOU NEED EVERY DEM VOTE IN THE SENATE!!!!!!

  • Rod Hoffman on January 26, 2013 6:33 PM:

    Re: Brown
    This mornings's Boston Globe notes that he hyas not announced for the interim seat and says he is considering running for governor. Even if Brown won as governor, that could be dealth with. There are super-duper D majorities in both the state House and Senat that laugh when an R governor goes off the reservation.

  • Doug on January 26, 2013 7:01 PM:

    According to the TPM story Mr. Knight linked to in his reply, Brown leads Markey by 31 points, but only leads the generic Democratic candidate by EIGHT point?
    Before I hit the panic button, I'll wait 'til I see what the polling expert at DKos has to say.