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Dems lose top recruit against Grassley

Former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack (D) said Monday morning she would not run against Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOn The Money: Biden says workers can't turn down job and get benefits | Treasury launches state and local aid | Businesses jump into vax push Grassley criticizes Biden's proposal to provide IRS with B The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns MORE (R-Iowa) in 2010, robbing Democrats of a top recruit against the five-term incumbent.

In a statement first published by The Des Moines Register, Vilsack said she had been honored by requests that she run, but that she believes she can serve the state in other ways.

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"Commiting to a campaign for the U.S. Senate next year requires more than the confidence that I have the right experience, the necessary support and the resources to be successful. It must come with an understanding that it is the best way for me serve our state and my fellow Iowans in the most effective way possible at this time," Vilsack said.

Democrats have another hope, though, in the form of ex-U.S. Attorney Roxanne Conlin. The Des Moines native was the party's nominee for governor in 1982, and she remains well-known among Hawkeye State voters.

A recent poll conducted for the liberal Daily Kos website by the independent firm Research 2000 showed Grassley leading both women. The incumbent led Vilsack by a 51 percent-to-40 percent margin, while he leads Conlin 51 percent to 39.

Other polls have shown Grassley's approval rating slipping. A survey conducted by Selzer & Co., a prominent Iowa polling firm, showed Grassley's approval rating had slipped 18 points between January and September.

But Grassley begins the race in strong financial position. Through the end of September, he had $4.4 million in the bank. Conlin could also bring a national fundraising base to the race. She is the former president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

In an interview with the Register, Conlin criticized Grassley's involvement in the healthcare debate, saying the lack of a deal between the senator, one of the GOP's top healthcare negotiators, and Democrats pushed her to run.