What, exactly, do you think you're doing?
Full disclosure: I asked this same question of Sen. Tom Harkin following his retirement announcement. I am still awaiting a response, or at least a Senatorial muffin basket.
Tom Latham, the right-honorable representative from the newly formed 3rd district, has decided that he will not seek the senate seat vacated by Harkin.
Now, Latham has been in Congress since the Republican Revolution of 1994.
This "Revolution" marked the first time that the Republicans had control of the House of Representatives since 1955 and the last time that anyone wanted to work with Newt Gingrich.
Does anybody remember the Republican Revolution? The Contract with America? The end of the Conservative Coalition? Joe Scarborough being a Congressman and not solely the host of the only good television program on at 5 a.m.?
Yeah, I didn't think so.
So now Latham, after 20 years in the House and the spot on favorite for the Republican nomination for Harkin's seat, has decided that he owes too much to the people of the 3rd district to spend two years in a costly Senate campaign.
Since when did politicians not like running for office? Are you spending too much time governing? In Congress? Their approval ratings can be described as "subterranean" at best. Why stick around?
When Sen. Harkin said he wasn't running we all just assumed that Rep. Latham would run. He has everything a GOP Senate candidate needs: fiscal conservative, strong law and order record, and he isn't a crazy person.
But with Latham stepping aside it seems the field is once again wide open for every crazy on the block to throw their hat in the ring, then take their hat back out of the ring after saying they think the ring wants to take their guns away.
And leading the hat-retractor pack is Iowa's pride and joy, Rep. Steve King.
Rep. King came to the House in 2002, well past the Republican Revolution and into the post-Bush frenzy of the Republican Trifecta, when the GOP controlled the House, the Senate and the White House.
Instead of building coalitions within the House and working with a Democratic president to create real reform, King enjoyed the relative safety of the Trifecta, allowing him to say things like illegal immigrants can be replaced by machines and to vote against the Katrina relief package.
This guy scares the GOP. He may be one of them, but he votes with the Staunch 40 of the Republican Study Committee, often against the direction of the party.
The GOP party elders, lead by Reince Priebus (a name that demands brandy swilling) and Karl Rove (a name that demands mouthwash) do not want King anywhere near this election. Rove even started Conservative Victory Project, a Super PAC devoted to picking the most "electable" GOP candidates. Those candidates will be asked to run and the rest will be quietly told to go sit in a corner. Guess which column King is in?
Rove came out strong against King, saying that "We're concerned about Steve King's Todd Akin problem." For those that have mentally blocked out the last election Todd Akin was the "legitimate rape" guy.
So Rove goes after King, King gets mad, gets a lot of donations, and suddenly looks like the "maverick" candidate fighting against the establishment.
Am I the only one thinking this is exactly what Latham wants?
In the great American tradition of the rope-a-dope, Latham seems like he's waiting for King to punch himself out against the GOP's Super PAC establishment, all the while watching King say more and more incendiary things that will detonate any chance he has in a general election.
But Latham said he wasn't running, right?
No, he said he didn't want to spend two years on a campaign, not that he wouldn't run.
So, what's the plan Tom? Wait until fall of 2014 to start making some statements about uniting the party? Throw together a "Latham for Iowa" committee? Announce you're running sometime around April 2015?
Sounds like it would work ... it won't. Fred Thompson tried the same "shy girl in the corner, just waiting to be asked" routine in the 2008 presidential election. Nowadays I don't think he even gets invited to the "Law and Order" reunions.
What Iowa needs right now is the calm and steady hand of a kingmaker, someone in the state the party can trust to pick the next GOP candidate without sullying anyone's good name with a messy primary.
Obviously, that is Bob Vander Plaats.
Big Bob likes to think of himself as a political mind of sorts, and I?think we all know whoever gets the Vander Plaats seal of approval is going to sail to victory on the same winds that swept Rick Santorum into the White House. We can only hope he chooses soon, otherwise this could get ugly.
I stand corrected Mr. Latham, I think we all know exactly what you're thinking.
Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.