Rep. Steve King: Thoughts on possible Senate bid 'not consuming me'

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) isn't closing the door on a possible 2014 Senate run but a decision isn't currently his top priority, he told The Hill on Thursday.

"It is not something I think about when I get up in the morning, nor when I go to bed at night, but it is a topic that comes up during the day. It'd be pretty hard to go through a day and not have that topic come up," he said. "But it is not consuming me at this time — I am focused on what we need to do here to wrap up this Congress and transition into the next one, and there's time to think about such a thing."

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King told Iowa reporters earlier this month that he hadn't ruled out a run for the seat held by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who has yet to say whether or not he'll run for a sixth term.

When asked if he'd been approached by Senate Republican leaders about whether he'd run, he said the topic had "been threaded through a conversation or two that I've had" but that the discussions were mostly on policy.

"I haven't put a high significance on those conversations at this point," he said.

He also said he has no timeline for a decision.

"It has to be a calling. You have to know. And when it comes together inside, if it does, then that's the time. Short of that, it wouldn't be a good idea," he said. "When you look around at the list of potential people that could challenge for that seat, there's [Rep.] Tom Latham on that list and myself on that list, and unless and until one of us would say no we're always going to be on that list, however many might be added to it. It would be foolish to foreclose anything at this point, but neither do I want to imply that I'm making moves in that direction."

King also defended the Iowa Straw Poll, a three-decade tradition in which Republican presidential candidates convene in the state over the summer and compete in a nonbinding vote of Iowa activists. The event has come under fire from a number of Republicans, most prominent among them Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R), who have said the event "has outlived its usefulness" and should be ended.

"The straw poll is a glorious event. It's a fantastic thing," King said. "People come in there, they bring their families in and they go from tent to tent, stop to stop, and they have an opportunity to meet some of these candidates, hear most of them talk."

King said he was open to changing the event but opposed eliminating it. The event is a huge fundraiser for the state party, but Republicans have criticized it for distorting the primary process, winnowing the candidate field too early and draining candidates' resources. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) won the straw poll last year before finishing dead last in Iowa's caucuses, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) dropped out of the presidential race after investing heavily in the straw poll and finishing a disappointing third.

"I'd like to not have any more discussion about ending the Straw Poll until [Gov. Branstad] and I and others get a chance to sit down and talk about how to do something better. This level or better. He and I will agree on that," King said when asked about Branstad's comments.