Tom Harkin, the longtime Democratic senator from Iowa who is retiring at the end of the term, spoke with the New York Times about the Hawkeye State's Senate race. Harkin seems to take it as a given that Republicans will gain control of the Senate, even as his fellow Iowa Democrat, Bruce Braley, is mired in a difficult campaign to succeed him.
Currently Republican state senator Joni Ernst leads Democratic congressman Braley by two-and-a-half points. The campaign had a defining moment early in the cycle when Braley told a fundraising event with a trial lawyers' group that if Republicans took the Senate, the judiciary committee would be chaired by Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley.
"A farmer from Iowa who never went to law school," Braley described Grassley on the captured video. The comments were seen by many conservatives as disparaging and seemed to confirm an image of Braley as an elitist. In the Times interview, Harkin offers what reads like a backhanded defense of Braley while confirming his belief that the GOP is likely to win the Senate majority:
Mr. Harkin seemed determined in a recent interview to prove that, conventional wisdom aside, Mr. Braley’s comment was by no means impolitic. “This may not be the time to say this,” Mr. Harkin said as he broached the topic at an Iowa coffee shop. But he could not resist picking at the scab:
“I watched it and I watched it again, and I thought, ‘What’s the hubbub about?’ He said on that tape that if the Senate goes Republican, a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school will be chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Everything he said is absolutely true. He didn’t lie. He didn’t utter a falsehood. He just said it matter of factly.
“To my way of thinking, I’d say so what’s the problem here? They said, ‘Well, he was dissing Grassley.’ How can you diss someone about which they are proud? I think Chuck Grassley is pretty proud of the fact that he didn’t go to law school and he’s going to be chairman of the Judiciary Committee — first time ever. What’s wrong with that?”