JUNE 6TH, 2008 | Harkin for Senate
By MIKE GLOVER | AP Political Writer
Read the original story at The Chicago Tribune
DES MOINES, Iowa – U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin predicted Wednesday that Barack Obama has a solid shot at winning Iowa’s seven electoral votes this fall in an election that’s shaping up well for Democrats.
Harkin, who is seeking his fifth Senate term, said he expects Obama and other Democrats to fare well in a general election he speculated could see the party’s largest gains in more than 30 years.
“It sure feels that way. It feels a lot like when I first came in in 1974, when I won that Republican district out in southwest Iowa,” said Harkin, referring to his first of five House terms. “We brought in 75 Democrats that year and it feels a lot like that now, in terms of registration, people who are saying they want big change.”
Harkin was among a group of eight formerly uncommitted Democratic senators who announced their endorsements of Obama, a signal to rival Hillary Rodham Clinton that the race is over.
“Senator Clinton has to make up her own mind, but we are hopeful that will happen very soon,” Harkin said. “I’ve got to believe that uppermost in her mind is what she can do to help pull this party together.”
With the focus shifting toward the general election, Harkin argued that Obama’s intense campaigning in Iowa leading to the state’s leadoff precinct caucuses will pay off in the race against Republican John McCain.
“I think Barack Obama is one of the most inspiring politicians I’ve ever met,” said Harkin. “He brought a lot of young people in and he brought a lot of independents. I witnessed that first-hand at the caucuses.”
While McCain competed in the caucuses, his Iowa campaign was far more limited than Obama’s all-out effort.
In addition, Harkin noted that Obama is from Illinois and neighboring politicians traditionally do well in Iowa.
“I think Barack Obama can carry the state,” said Harkin. “It’s not a slam dunk. He’s got to work hard.”
Obama has already indicated he will focus on Iowa, where he held a high-profile outdoor rally last month on a night when he earned a majority of the pledged delegates.
Harkin said he’ll try to deliver as many of his supporters to the polls as possible, a move that will help him return to the Senate and help Obama carry the state.
“My role is to do anything I can to get re-elected and to get my voters out,” said Harkin. “The better we do at the local level, county offices, the better we are. The best thing I can do is to campaign and do everything I can to win election.”
Harkin is well positioned to do just that. Political newcomer Christopher Reed on Tuesday won a razor-thin Republican primary for the right to oppose Harkin. He hasn’t sought public office before, is not widely known and Federal Election Commission records show no fundraising activity on his part.
Harkin has raised $4.8 million, and has won every election he’s contested since 1974.
Adding to the momentum, Iowa Democrats have built an 80,000-person edge in registered voters.
Still, Harkin said Democrats must work to do to take advantage of political winds blowing in their direction.
“In politics, if the wind is blowing and you don’t put up your sail, you’re dead in the water,” he said.