DES MOINES -- Within minutes of U.S. Tom Harkin’s announcement that he wouldn’t seek a sixth term Saturday, media email inboxes were deluged with statements from Democrats praising the senator and wishing him well.

Iowa Republican Chairman AJ Spiker sent one out, too, but his was headlined “Harkin retires. Let’s turn Iowa red” and it was attached to a fundraising plea for “$50, $35, $25, or even $20.14.”

Whoever makes a run at the open seat will likely have to raise at least $5 million in the next 22 months. U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, spent $6.7 million for his 2010 race, and that doesn’t count the money spent on his behalf by outside groups. Harkin spent a little more than $5 million in his 2008 contest. At the time of his announcement, Harkin had $2.7 million in his campaign chest.

Here’s what the respective campaign chests for some potential senate aspirants looked like the day of Harkin’s announcement, according to federal and state campaign finance records.*

--- U.S. Rep. Tom Latham: $139,337. Touted as the early Republican front-runner for the Harkin seat, Latham just dispatched Democrat Rep. Leonard Boswell in a 2012 race between incumbents.

--- U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley: $90,012. The four-term congressman from Waterloo is often mentioned as likely Democratic successor to Harkin. He spent $2.6 million in his 2012 race against Republican Ben Lange.

--- U.S. Rep. Steve King: $198,191. A GOP member of Congress since 2003, King’s conservative politics have made him something of a national figure. He spent $3.7 million in his 2012 race against Democrat Christie Vilsack.

--- Christie Vilsack: $3,559. The former Iowa first lady hasn’t ruled out another run for office after her bruising campaign against Republican Steve King. In that 2012 race, she spent $3.4 million.

--- Secretary of State Matt Schultz: $29,505. Under Republican Schultz, the Secretary of State’s Office has moved from a dull administrative post to one that’s on the front lines of the immigration debate. That could play well with primary voters.

--- State Rep. Tyler Olson: $16,470. Elected as Iowa Democratic Party chairman the same day Harkin announced he was stepping down, Olson has his eye on the governor’s chair, but an open U.S. Senate seat might be more attractive.

--- State Sen. Jack Hatch: $7,935. Hatch, D-Des Moines, has said he’s interested in the governor’s spot. But he’s also a former Harkin staffer who might be inclined to try a Senate spot.

--- Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds: $22,329. Seen as a potential GOP successor to Gov. Terry Branstad, Reynolds could be a compelling candidate for Senate, too.

*Federal totals were last reported on 11/26/12; state totals were last reported on 1/19/13

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Is it not a sad state when campaign coffers are the primary qualification of a candidate? Does ability, experience and integrity not matter more than the money they bring to the contest? Is it any wonder that our great nation is in rapid decline? Wake up Iowa!

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