Senator Tom Harkin says he won’t endorse any of the Democrats running for president until after Iowa’s Caucuses. "I’m taking a hands-off, very neutral approach," Harkin says. "They’re all my friends. All the Democrats who are running are very good. They’re intelligent. They’re smart. They’re all saying the right things and I think they all have good proposals for what they want to do as president, so I intend to stay very neutral in this."
All of the candidates are scheduled to appear at Harkin’s annual fall fundraiser in September. Harkin hosted all the candidates at his steak fry in 2003, plus Harkin hosted individual town hall meetings around the state with each of the candidates that year.
Harkin says now that Democrats control the U.S. Senate, there’s a "press of business" he needs to attend to in Washington, so he won’t be hosting a similar series of events for this season’s presidential hopefuls. "I’ve got an ag bill up. I’ve got my appropriations bill up and there’s a lot of candidates this time," Harkin says. "I just didn’t have the time to do it this year."
Four of the Democrats seeking the White House are Harkin’s colleagues in the U.S. Senate. In the last presidential campaign, Harkin endorsed former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and was standing on stage, behind Dean — holding Dean’s coat, when Dean let loose with that now-infamous scream.
Harkin ran for president himself in 1992, but dropped out of the race after a poor finish in New Hampshire. Iowa’s other U.S. Senator — Republican Chuck Grassley — has said if he does endorse a candidate on the GOP side, it won’t be until September, if at all.
In 1998 and again in 1996, Grassley endorsed Bob Dole and actively campaigned around the state for the Kansas Senator.