Rep. Greg Ganske, R-Iowa, won the Republican nomination Tuesday to challenge Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, but was forced to hold off a surprisingly strong showing by conservative activist Bill Salier.
Ganske built a 60 percent to 40 percent lead over Salier with 73 percent of the state's precincts counted, far too big an edge for Salier to overcome. With 1,463 of the state's 2,003 precincts reporting, Ganske had 87,586 votes compared to Salier's 58,990. Gankse held a lead throughout the early counting, but Salier carved out a significant slice of the vote in returns scattered around the state. "It was a low-turnout election," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a big Ganske backer, who credited Salier with running a solid campaign. "I congratulate him on his energy." Harkin aides immediately took aim at Salier's showing, arguing that Ganske had the support of the GOP establishment, but still had a tough race with Salier. "Greg Ganske is the weakest candidate they could have nominated," said Harkin campaign manager Jeff Link. "Ganske outspent him 31-to-one and still had a 60-40 race." Harkin, who did not face a primary challenge, was in Washington on Tuesday.