Despite poll numbers showing him with a commanding lead in the race, agriculture secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack will not run for Senate in 2014, his spokesman said Friday.
The Des Moines Register broke the news.
Matt Paul, an aide to Vilsack, told the paper: “He will not seek the open seat.” The seat is being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
A poll of 802 Iowans conducted for the paper February 3 through February 6 found Vilsack to be the only potential candidate for the seat that got support from a majority of Iowans: 56 percent said he would be an appealing Senate candidate, and just 35 percent said he would not be. He was one of only three likely candidates whom more people liked than disliked, and the only one to get majority support.
Those numbers were so good for him that J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the poll, told the Des Moines Register, “This is the kind of poll finding that launches campaigns.”
But it will not launch a campaign by Vilsack, who, his aide said, is focused on his cabinet position.
That leaves Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, who has already announced he will run, as the likely Democratic frontrunner in the race. Vilsack’s wife, Christie, was also considered a possible candidate, but she has said she will not run.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee crowed at the news, attacking Braley as too liberal to win.
“The DSCC tried and failed to prevent Senator Harkin’s hand chosen candidate, Rep. Bruce Braley, from a clear path to the nomination because they know his brand of liberalism is too far outside the mainstream for most Iowans,” the NRSC said in a statement. “Now Democrats are stuck a slick former head of the trial lawyers association and one of the most partisan members of Congress as their candidate, Bruce Braley.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shot back at the NRSC, maligning their statement as misleading.
“In an attempt to distract from their waning influence within their own party, the NRSC has released a false and incomprehensible statement about Congressman Braley that only adds to the committee’s embarrassment,” said Justin Barasky, DSCC press secretary. “Perhaps they should be more concerned about a field of candidates out of touch with mainstream Americans and a potential primary that will push the eventual nominee even further to the right.”