Race for Harkin's seat could be '$20 million race' - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Race for Harkin's seat could be '$20 million race'

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Iowa hasn't had an open seat in the U.S. Senate since 1974.

Now, as Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin prepares to step down in 2014, KWWL political analyst Chris Larimer said the race for Harkin’s seat is shaping up to be one of unprecedented campaign spending in Iowa.

"I think you're going to see a lot of money coming in,” Larimer said. “I think the winning candidate will have to spend $10 million, so you are talking about a $20 million race."

Currently, the field of Republication candidates stands at six, and all are looking for the primary nomination to run against Democrat and current U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa's other U.S. senator, said this week that he sees only one key thing that will shrink this large conservative field.

"One thing that may make a big difference if one of the half-dozen candidates can raise a massive amount of money (to) show early strength,” Grassley said.

Not only would this help trim the field, it would also help a conservative candidate compete against Braley, who reportedly already has $2.5 million for his campaign.

Money like this goes a long way in a swing state like Iowa, paying for direct mailers, phone banks, and the most effective tool – supporters to go around neighborhoods knocking on doors.

Larimer also said this large field of Republicans will force the candidates even farther to the right.

"You run to the extremes for the primary, then run back to the center for the general election,” Larimer said. “I don't think we'd expect anything different for this."

But he also said that there is a reason why there are not any big-name Iowa Republicans coming forward in this race.

"That at least says something to me, that they see something in the tea leaves,” he said. “They see something with registration numbers or voting numbers, that this is not the year to do it. Because if you're up-and-coming in the Republican party, and you're a big name, you want to run … in a year that looks good for your party."

He also noted that since several other longtime Democratic senators are stepping down across the U.S., the decision in Iowa will play a pivotal role in which party wins the majority in the 2014 U.S. Senate.

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