Harkin declares ’08 presidential race “jump ball”

On the eve of his annual fall fundraiser — the "Harkin steak fry" — Iowa Senator Tom Harkin makes an appearance on the Iowa Public Television program "Iowa Press" which airs this evening.  The show was taped at 2 o’clock this afternoon.  Harkin said two interesting things.  One — the race for his party’s presidential nomination is wide open.  Two — it’s hard for a senator to get elected president.

As you may recall, Harkin’s not going to endorse a candidate in this cycle.  "That didn’t really work out too well," Harkin said of his 2004 endorsement of Howard Dean.  "I think that’s when Iowa Democrats told me to mind my own business and they’d make up their own minds."

Harkin was asked to "handicap" the 2008 race.  "If I had one word to describe it right now — jump ball," Harkin said (that’s two words, according to spell check, not one). "…Even if you add up all the ones who have sort of said where they’re going to go, you still have probably 50 percent — 40 to 50 percent of the Iowa Democrats who are still open and as you know from the Dean experience four years ago, between now and then people might change their minds if someone says something, if something happens, this shifting could take place."

Harkin was asked to evaluate each of the candidates — and during his analysis of first the Richardson, then the Biden & Dodd candidacies, Harkin offered these thoughts:  "We tend to elect governors as president, not senators.  Very tough for a senator to become president.  People look at governors differently…It’s very tough.  People look upon us as senators and it’s very hard to break out of that, especially when you’ve been a senator for a long time.  We tend to speak in senatoreze or whatever that language is we speak these days and yet governors and others speak a different language and it’s burden and it’s tough to break out of."

Listen/read the whole show here (it’ll be uploaded sometime, perhaps after the 7:30 p.m. broadcast).

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.