IA-04: Joni Ernst is all in for Steve King

Today U.S. Senator Joni Ernst became the third Iowa Republican heavyweight to endorse Representative Steve King, who faces a primary challenge from State Senator Rick Bertrand in Iowa’s fourth Congressional district. Ernst didn’t just allow King’s campaign to announce her support in a statement, she also filmed a short video which I’ve enclosed below, along with a transcript.

Birds can be heard singing in the background as Ernst praises King for supporting life, liberty, the military, four-laning U.S. Highway 20, and the fuel blender tax credit. The sound you can’t hear is the door slamming on Bertrand’s already slim chance to win this primary.

Ernst served with Bertrand in the Iowa Senate GOP caucus from 2011 through 2014, so has observed his political work more closely than most Republicans. She could have stayed neutral, though seven-term incumbent King was heavily favored to win the IA-04 primary even before Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley publicly backed him.

As with Grassley’s endorsement, I wonder whether Ernst wanted to dish out some payback to Nick Ryan, the dark money operative who was recruiting a primary challenger in IA-04 and endorsed Bertrand immediately after the state senator made his campaign official.

Ryan worked for Mark Jacobs during his race against Ernst and others in the 2014 GOP primary for U.S. Senate. (Bruce Rastetter, a frequent ally of Ryan and major ethanol industry figure who is also supporting Bertrand against King, backed Ernst early in that race.)

Bertrand has been promoting himself as someone who will deliver for IA-04 in Congress, rather than trying to be a "national figure." Last week, he asserted in an interview with the Des Moines Register’s William Petroski that there is widespread "discontentment" with King, who "has gone Washington." Echoing that talking point, Ryan told Petroski, "I believe we can do better. I want a conservative congressman that cares more about getting things done for his district than booking an appearance on Fox or MSNBC."

Ryan can raise a lot of money to spend on campaigns, but his track record in Iowa GOP contests is mixed. Unsuccessful candidates who benefited from spending controlled by Ryan include: Jim Gibbons in the 2010 primary for Iowa’s third Congressional district, Annette Sweeney in the 2012 primary for Iowa House district 50, Jacobs in the 2014 Senate primary, Matt Schultz in the 2014 primary for IA-03, and Mike Huckabee before the latest Iowa caucuses.

P.S.-Asked this morning whether he wants "to see King defeated" in June, Governor Terry Branstad replied, "It’s up to the voters to decide in each of these instances and I’ve always had confidence in the voters of Iowa to make a good decision and I will obviously support the Republican nominees," O.Kay Henderson reported for Radio Iowa. Branstad made headlines by calling for Ted Cruz’s defeat less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. King was Cruz’s leading surrogate in Iowa after endorsing the Texas senator for president in November.

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IA-Sen: DSCC makes the obvious official, Judge doesn't talk about it

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee recruited former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge to run against Senator Chuck Grassley, praised her as a "formidable challenger" the day she launched her campaign, and invited her to lunch with Democratic senators in Washington a few days later. So it was no surprise when the DSCC made its support for Judge official on April 20.

Judge’s campaign has touted endorsements from influential Iowa Democrats but didn’t spread the word about the DSCC’s announcement this week—probably because backing from Washington insiders feeds into talking points Republicans and Democratic rivals have already been using.

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One Iowa House Republican's strange and lonely battle against marriage equality

Seven years have passed since the Iowa Supreme Court struck down our state’s Defense of Marriage Act. The Republican-controlled Iowa House failed to approve a constitutional amendment to overturn that court ruling more than three years ago. Fewer than a quarter of GOP state representatives were willing to co-sponsor the marriage amendment in 2015. Even if Iowa lawmakers tried to turn back the clock on marriage equality, the effort would be futile, since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that all states must recognize marriages between same-sex couples.

Nevertheless, one Iowa House Republican won’t let this fight go. Today he seized on an unusual and futile way to register his discontent with the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien decision.

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Weekend open thread: Ted Cruz delegate domination edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Newly-disclosed details about the sex abuse charges filed against former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert caught my attention. As Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall explained here, "Without the unending hunt into Bill Clinton’s sex life, you never would have heard of Denny Hastert. It also seems highly unlikely he ever would have had to answer, even in this limited way, for his own past." While the Monica Lewinsky scandal unfolded, I was covering Russian politics and had many Russian colleagues. They were astounded by the Republican effort to remove Clinton from office. I remember some joking, if only our president (the rarely-seen-in-public Boris Yeltsin) were healthy enough to have an affair.

The big Iowa politics news of the weekend came out of the GOP district conventions on Saturday. Repeating a storyline that has played out elsewhere, Ted Cruz’s campaign destroyed the competition with superior organizing in every part of the state. Cruz didn’t entirely shut out other candidates here the way he did in Colorado, but his supporters took eleven of the twelve Republican National Convention delegate slots. Although Donald Trump has belatedly started to build a serious RNC delegate strategy, his campaign’s efforts leading up to this weekend in Iowa were remarkably incompetent. Cruz’s team have been preparing for a prolonged delegate battle since last summer and have executed the strategy well lately.

Trump still hits the magic number of 1,237 delegates (an overall majority) in most of the scenarios guest author fladem played out this week (most recently updated here). Sam Wang showed at the Princeton Election Consortium that current polling still indicates Trump could clinch the nomination on June 7—though Cruz has been over performing his poll numbers lately, which increases the chance of a brokered convention. The Cruz sweep of Colorado delegates and near-sweep of Iowa’s GOP district conventions are a reminder that the first ballot at the RNC in Cleveland may be Trump’s only chance for the nomination.

More links and commentary about the district conventions are after the jump.

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