Why Tom Harkin Retiring Is a Big Deal

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Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin announced he won't be seeking re-election in 2014 on Saturday, opening up a race for a precious Senate seat in one of the biggest battleground states in the country. You think the race in Massachusetts is exciting? Wait until Iowa heats up. 

Harking broke the news to the Associated Press' Thomas Beaumont on Saturday citing his age. Harkin would be the ripe, old age of 81 years old if he was elected to another term. "It's just time to step aside," he told Beaumont. He's served in his current post for almost 30 years. The move was a surprise to many, including Iowa Democrats who were sitting down for their State Central Committee meeting Saturday morning. Some thought Harkin was going to be a Senate lifer. Alas, that's not the case. "I'm going to learn to dance," he told the Des-Moines Register.

So that leaves a prime Senate seat in a very important state wide open. Republicans only need six wins to take control of the Senate from the Democrats, but it's unclear which direction Iowa is leaning these days. Republican Terry E. Branstad is the Governor. Republican Chuck Grassley is the state's senior Senator. But Iowa's gone to the Democrats in five of the last six Presidential elections, and half of the state's representatives are Democrats.

It's going to come down to who runs for each party. The Democratic favorite so far is Rep. Bruce Braley, who David Axelrod expects to run. Early expectations point to Steve King, someone against immigration reform, and Rep. Tom Latham as the Republican favorites. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.