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Harkin to Retire

Iowa’s about to get a lot more interesting before 2016.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin says he will not seek re-election in 2014.

The 73-year-old Harkin tells The Associated Press in an interview, “It’s just time to step aside,” because by the time he would finish a sixth term, he would be 81.

Harkin said it would also allow a new generation of Democrats to seek higher office.

The announcement comes as a surprise, considering he had $2.7 million in his campaign war chest and was planning a fundraiser next month.

Harkin played a lead role in urging the Senate’s more liberal members to back the 2010 health care bill.

No Iowa Republicans have taken formal steps toward seeking the seat. Harkin’s decision eases the burden on the GOP, who have to gain six seats to win the majority.

The massive retirements of Democrats in the Senate is a very real possibility in the next few cycles.  What is it on average, a third or more of that caucus is in their 70s and 80s?

Yes, that might mean “no blood” in the coming years, but it also means that by hanging on this long, many of them were snuffing out their own farm teams in their home states.  Not every place is like Madison or Waukesha where you’re tripping over politicians trying to replace a long-time veteran.

Iowa’s a place where both parties are fairly strong, with two long-sitting incumbents in Harkin and Grassley.  Determining its next senator could be a fight for the ages in the Hawkeye State.

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