Steve King’s Cash Raises Eyebrows, Doubts About Senate Bid

by Stuart Rothenberg April 18, 2013 · 11:55 AM EDT

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is mentioned often as a possible 2014 Senate candidate for retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s seat. But if King’s first-quarter 2013 fundraising report is any indication, the conservative Republican isn’t headed for a statewide race.

King raised just $93,000 in total contributions during the first three months of the year, including only $78,000 from individuals. He ended the quarter with $90,000 in the bank. CQ Roll Call labeled him a “loser” among those whose first-quarter reports were worth monitoring.

Last cycle, King raised more than $3.7 million in individual, party and PAC contributions to turn back an aggressive challenge from former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack. The race turned out not to be as close as many had expected. Of course, his 2011 first-quarter report was also unimpressive. He showed receipts for that quarter at just more than $41,000 and ended March with $142,000 on hand.

Bruce Braley, the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic Senate nomination next year, got off to a fast fundraising start this year. His Federal Election Commission report showed more than $856,000 raised during the quarter, ending March with just more than $1 million in the bank after transferring funds from his House committee.

Iowa hasn’t had a truly competitive Senate race in years, but GOP Sen. Charles E. Grassley raised $5.7 million in turning back a 2010 challenge from unsuccessful 1982 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Roxanne Conlin, and Harkin raised more than $7 million in 2002, when then-Rep. Greg Ganske, a Republican, gave him a run for his money.

A heavily contested Senate race next year could force each nominee to raise as much as $10 million.

Republicans remain nervous about a possible ideological primary that could weaken the party’s nominee ahead of a tough general election against Braley. But even if King doesn’t give up his House seat for a risky Senate bid, conservatives are likely to come up with a candidate for the Republican nomination, especially if GOP Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds seeks the Senate nomination.