Political Animal


May 06, 2013 1:10 PM Steve King Spoils Our Fun

By Ed Kilgore

So everybody’s favorite nativist, animal-rights opponent, and general all-around firebreather, U.S. Representative Steve King (R-IA), is officially taking a pass on trying to win the open seat of retiring U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. King was a lead-pipe cinch for the GOP nomination had he wanted it; his House colleague Tom Latham, Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, and state Ag Commissioner Bill Northey, had all withdrawn from the potential field, presumably because they didn’t want to get in King’s way.

King’s decision, however, wasn’t really much of a surprise. He’s already a big-time national celebrity. He has a safe House seat (if the very well-funded and well-known Christie Vilsack couldn’t get more than 45% against him in a presidential year, no other Democrat is likely to be taken seriously in the near future). And if he wants to become a bigger deal in national politics, his best options are in the House, where he is nestled among many like-minded Tea types, and by involvement in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, where his support could be crucial (he did not endorse a candidate in 2012).

But us political observers will miss the fun of a King Senate race, and the spectacle of all the 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls spending half their 2014 time in Iowa campaigning like rats in heat for the wacky dude and serving up a rich harvest of oppo research material for the Democratic Party. But it’s not like the eventual Senate nominee is likely to be some RINO squish.

According to The Iowa Republican’s Craig Robinson, the “second tier” of potential Iowa GOP Senate candidates is headed by Secretary of State Matt Schultz, mainly known for his Voter ID advocacy and his 2012 endorsement of Rick Santorum. Another potential heavyweight is former U.S. attorney Matt Whitaker, whose serial chairmanships of the 2012 campaigns of Tim Pawlenty and Rick Perry may not seem like the best credentials, but did keep him in close touch with conservative activists. Meanwhile, Rep. Bruce Braley cleared the field on the Democratic side, and is busy raising money and setting up an organization while the Republicans try to get their act together.

But even as they try to find themselves some Senate candidates, Iowa Republicans are probably riveted this week by anticipation of Rand Paul’s speech to the state party’s annual fundraising dinner on Friday. His old man did well in Iowa in 2012, but the subsequent Paulite takeover of the state party has not gone over well with non-Paulites, so Rand will need to tread carefully.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on May 06, 2013 1:27 PM:

    I'll miss the fun that kook would have brought with him, just by opening his yap.

    I was hoping this would encourage his fellow loons in the House to run for Senate - like Gohmert in TX, and Bachmann in MN.

    It's a lead-pipe cinch the people who vote for these fools in their districts, and at least as, and maybe more. crazy than these loons - but even in TX, there are pockets of sanity.

  • Peter C on May 06, 2013 1:36 PM:

    I can see why he'd be afraid to expose his wing-nuttery to a wider audience. Cults are hard to sustain over large groups of people.

  • Mudge on May 06, 2013 1:57 PM:

    I'd be careful when attaching rational reasons to Steve King's withdrawal. I disagree that his ambition and ego are best served in the House. I'd assume he has a heretofore unknown skeleton in his closet that he didn't want exposed. In his cult district it may not make a difference (as it sadly may not in Terry Sanford's SC district). But Sanford probably could not win a Senate race nearly as easily with his baggage.

    Occam's razor says King withdrew because of an impediment to success, usually money or potential scandal.

  • jsjiowa on May 06, 2013 2:05 PM:

    King hadn't raised very much money last quarter, which seemed to indicate he wasn't really that serious about tossing his hat in the ring. It would be interesting to see his internal polls, though -- especially with the Governor saying he wouldn't fare well in a statewide race.

    The Paul dinner IS sold out (as they proudly proclaimed on Twitter last week). But there is a lot of internal battling going on, especially between the county GOP organizations and the state Paul folks. It's been popcorn worthy at times. Let's hope it continues!