Branstad backs Latham for Senate

Iowa’s five-term Republican governor wants veteran Rep. Tom Latham to be his party’s nominee in 2014 for the Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin and fellow Rep. Steve King to wait to run for the Hawkeye State’s other Senate seat.

In an exclusive interview with Human Events during the National Governors Association meeting in Washington on Saturday, Gov. Terry Branstad revealed why he supports 20-year Rep. Latham rather than seven-termer King for the open Senate seat next year.

“I want Tom Latham to run because he’d win,” Branstad told us without hesitation, explaining that “Tom already represents 56 of our state’s 99 counties in the House. He’s a conservative and he can win.”

As to why he didn’t feel the same way about King–a swashbuckling conservative best known for his hardline opposition to illegal immigration, Branstad replied: “Steve’s a great guy and a good friend. But remember: he’s running in a new district [after redistricting in 2011] and had a tough fight last year against [Democrat] Christy Vilsack [the wife of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor]. Conservatives love him but it will take a lot of work for him to develop a campaign beyond his district.”

Should six-term Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley step down in 2016, Branstad quickly added, “I would support Steve for the Senate. He’s really effective, but first, he needs to nail down that new district of his in North Central Iowa.” Latham and King, the state’s two Republican House Members, are both exploring a bid for the Senate in 2014 and King recently told Human Events he was “50-50” on making the race. The likely Democratic nominee is far-left Rep. Bruce Braley, a protege of Sen. Harkin and past president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association.

When we asked Branstad if he would like to run for the Senate, he quipped: “I would love to run but just not serve.”

Will he seek a sixth non-consecutive term in 2016 we asked, and thus become the longest-serving governor of any state in American history?

“We’ll see,” Branstad said.