Representative Steve King endorsed Senator Ted Cruz for president a few minutes ago, calling the senator from Texas "the answer to my prayers, a candidate God will use to restore the soul of America." After going through several key issues, including the need to stop President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration and to repeal "root and branch" the 2010 Affordable Care Act, King said his candidate would need to be committed to those policies. In addition, King said a successful candidate needs to be able to appeal not only to establishment Republicans, but also to "constitutional Christian conservatives" and libertarians. The candidate must be able to raise enough money to run a strong campaign, and must be able to inspire Christian conservatives for a large turnout. In King's view, one reason Republicans lost the 2012 presidential race was millions of Christian conservatives staying home.
King argued that Cruz is "unmatched in his tenacity to take on the Washington cartels" and has "consistently stood on principle" against the D.C. elites. He "does listen, and he does think." Asked how much he will do to support Cruz before the Iowa caucuses, King joked that "if they'll let me," he is prepared to hit the campaign trail, adding, "I'm in with both feet, I'm in all the way." Asked to sum up his reasoning in one sentence, King said, "Ted Cruz is the full package, the constitutional conservative that can restore the soul of America."
King didn't endorse a candidate before the 2012 Iowa caucuses, and didn't take a stand the previous cycle until shortly before the 2008 caucuses, when he endorsed Fred Thompson. I suspect that coming out so early for Cruz reflects King's concern about Donald Trump's and Ben Carson's long ride at the top of the Iowa and national polls. During the Q & A, King said he hopes his endorsement will add "clarity" to Cruz's position on immigration, and asserted that some others are trying to distort Cruz's stance on that issue. When a reporter asked King why he doesn't see Carson as a candidate who can restore the soul of America, King praised Carson's intellect but suggested that Washington, DC is not "a zone that he is familiar with." Later in the Q & A, King made a similar point about Trump--he doesn't know enough about how Washington works. He made clear that he would support Trump if he became the GOP nominee and said he appreciated that Trump has raised some of the issues King has worked on for a long time.
UPDATE: Added below some reaction to today's news and the official video of King endorsing Cruz, which the senator's campaign sent out a few minutes before King made the big reveal at his press conference. One of the pro-Cruz super-PACs also announced King's endorsement before the congressman did.
During his press conference, King indicated that he has been pondering an endorsement for a long time, making his final decision on Friday after seeing the "erosion of culture in Europe" during a recent trip.
CNN's Betsy Klein noted that "King's son Jeff has been working for one of the Super PACs backing Cruz for some time."
Patrick Svitek's piece for the Texas Tribune last month on King's likely endorsement of Cruz is worth a read.
With talk radio host Steve Deace already in Cruz's corner, along with many conservative pastors across Iowa, speculation will increase that Bob Vander Plaats will jump on board soon. I don't see that happening before December, since Vander Plaats leads the FAMiLY Leader organization, which is hosting a presidential forum on November 20. But I agree that Vander Plaats will eventually land in Cruz's corner. Dick and Betty Odgaard, Iowa's leading self-styled martyrs to marriage equality, are "religious liberty ambassadors" for the Cruz campaign. The FAMiLY Leader has been hyping the Odgaards' fake victim narrative for years.
Deace was ecstatic about today's news, speaking to Katie Glueck of Politico:
"I think it absolutely moves the dial on the ground," cheered Deace in a phone call, predicting that King's endorsement "all but locks up" a top-three finish in Iowa for Cruz. "The timing of it, in advance of the [Vander Plaats] event this weekend, is pretty much perfect for Cruz."
Press release from Ted Cruz's presidential campaign:
IOWA CONGRESSMAN STEVE KING ENDORSES TED CRUZ FOR PRESIDENT
HOUSTON, Texas – Today, the Ted Cruz for President campaign announced that Cruz has received the endorsement of Congressman Steve King, an influential and outspoken conservative, particularly on the issues of immigration and fiscal responsibility. Congressman King has consistently said that it is critical the next President be someone who will fight unapologetically for conservative principles.
“Ted Cruz has the positive conservative vision for the country that we need to correct the failures of the Obama Administration,” said King. “When I survey the challenges facing our country, and the slate of individuals who have stepped forward to offer to lead, one man stands out as the courageous conservative whom I believe can restore the soul of America. That man is Ted Cruz. He has consistently and tirelessly fought on the issues that matter most to conservatives, such as Obamacare, religious liberty, life, and stopping Obama’s lawless executive actions. Cruz has a proven record of standing up to both Democrats and Republicans to put the American people first, and I believe he is the only one who can unite conservatives around his campaign and build the organization needed to beat Hillary Clinton. With Ted Cruz, conservatives no longer have to accept a Republican nominee who doesn’t truly share our values. I am endorsing Ted Cruz because I know we can trust him to do exactly what he says he will do, and we need that kind of commitment and dedication in the White House. That is why I am asking every one of my fellow Iowa Republicans to join me in caucusing for Ted Cruz.”
“I am beyond honored to receive Steve’s endorsement,” said Cruz. “Steve is a tremendous leader in the House and one of the few truly principled men and women in Washington. He is a courageous conservative who stands up for our values and refuses to back down. His support comes at a fantastic time for our campaign as we are seeing people in Iowa and across the country signing up, volunteering, contributing, and joining our campaign to reignite the promise of America. I can’t thank Steve enough and know that his help gives us a significant advantage as we continue to grow and have success in Iowa and across the nation.”
King’s backing is a coveted endorsement in the Iowa caucus. The seven-term Congressman has been a consistent leader on issues such as immigration and protecting innocent life, and his endorsement is considered among the most influential in Iowa. Cruz has built a top-notch organization in the Hawkeye State, with at least one chair in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. He is among the leaders in total visits to Iowa and held one of the largest GOP campaign rallies in Iowa to date by organizing his “Rally for Religious Liberty” in Des Moines in August.
The Iowa Democratic Party released this statement a few minutes after King's press conference:
DES MOINES – IDP Communications Director Sam Lau issued the following statement in response to Steve King’s endorsement of Ted Cruz today:
“Today Steve King announced his endorsement of the Republican presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, who he believes will best champion his divisive views, hateful rhetoric and backwards-looking policies.
“It should come as no surprise that Steve King, recently named the least effective members of Congress, would endorse Ted Cruz, the principal architect of the 2013 government shutdown that cost our economy $24 billion.
“What’s clear is that Steve King’s extreme policies, most notably his vocal opposition to immigration reform and hostile attitude towards immigrants, are now front and center in today’s Republican Party, and supported by most of the 2016 GOP presidential field.
“Iowans deserve far better than Steve King and the 2016 GOP presidential candidates who stand behind his misguided policies.”
No question, most of the Republican presidential field has embraced King's views on immigration, which were once considered so extreme that King was passed over for a House subcommittee chairmanship.
For the record, that "least effective" rating is based solely on the fact that King has not sponsored any bills that have been enacted or even gotten through committee since his tenure in Congress began in 2003. I agree that King doesn't represent his district well and has delivered relatively little for his constituents. But members of Congress do more than turn legislative proposals into laws. King often remarks that he has succeeded in adding many amendments to laws that passed. He has influenced public policy in other ways too, most notably as one of the conservatives who helped keep comprehensive immigration reform off the House floor in 2013 and 2014. Like them or not, those tactics were effective.
TUESDAY UPDATE: One Iowa Republican who was particularly unhappy about King's endorsement was Nick Ryan. The founder of the 501(c)4 group American Future Fund led a super-PAC supporting Rick Santorum before the 2012 Iowa caucuses and signed on early with Mike Huckabee's super-PAC this year. As you can see below, Ryan went on a Twitter tear yesterday attacking Cruz for allegedly supporting "amnesty" and not supporting the Renewable Fuels Standard, when the ethanol industry is so important to King's Congressional district. It must be maddening to watch a phony like Cruz eclipse the 2008 winner of the caucuses among social conservatives. Amazingly, the current polling average among Iowa Republicans puts Huckabee in the cellar with Chris Christie, the chosen presidential candidate of ethanol baron Bruce Rastetter, the American Future Fund's original financial backer.