Representative Steve King is "not ready" to endorse Donald Trump for president yet, he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on May 17. The seven-term Republican who represents Iowa's fourth district was Senator Ted Cruz's top surrogate here before the Iowa caucuses. Speaking to the Des Moines Register earlier this month, King indicated that he would be inclined to support Trump if the billionaire becomes the Republican presidential nominee in July. At that time, King said, "I’m keeping my powder dry and I want to see what Donald Trump has to say. This is a difficult thing for a lot of people to swallow, but I don’t want to encourage them to jump on the Never Trump bandwagon and I don’t want to encourage an alternative candidate."
During yesterday's CNN interview, King spelled out more clearly what needs to happen for him to endorse Trump's candidacy.
I've been unable to find the video from King's appearance on CNN's website, but the Right Scoop posted the clip here. Asked whether he was finally ready to support the presumptive GOP nominee, King said,
I'm not ready to do that. I am, have been active and am ready to work things in that direction. Wolf, I'm hopeful that we'll be able to, to be able to identify, and solidify--especially the conservatives in the Republican Party, which are well more than a majority, to identify where Donald Trump is on some of these issues, to solidify those kind of bonds and issue by issue, heal this thing together by the time we get to Cleveland. But it's an incremental process, it just doesn't happen by flipping the toggle switch overnight.[...]
Blitzer followed up by asking what King needs to hear from Trump to make this happen.
We don't hear him speak about the moral issues, the constitutional issues, life and marriage. The moral foundation for a free society doesn't seem to come from Donald Trump's lips, at least not very often. And I would suggest this: that he should give a nationwide, highly-publicized speech that focuses on, on the core of our culture, the soul of America and what he expects America to look like and be like under a Trump presidency. And with that, then, he can plug in some of the pieces along the way, such as what his intentions would be on the appointments to the federal bench. And I would suggest that he would bring into his counsel some of the solid, especially constitutional conservatives here in Congress, as John McCain offered to do back in 2008.
King added that he isn't satisfied with Trump's previous comments opposing abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother's life is in danger. He wants to hear more specifics about that issue. More broadly, King wonders,
What's the Constitution mean to Donald Trump? How closely would he be constrained by it? What is his respect for the separation of powers that [President] Barack Obama has significantly disrespected? [...] When you're asking judges, vetting judges for the bench, a lot of it is outside the perception skill sets of a presidential candidate, and I would want to put that in the hands of some of the solid conservatives here in Congress. Of course, I'm confident with my own judgment, but I would recommend some people like Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and, say, Chuck Grassley, and over on the House side, people like Trent Franks, Chris Smith, and others that have been leading on these issues, to vet these justices. And I'd like to suggest that Donald Trump bring that kind of a committee together and seek their counsel on appointments to the bench.
You know, many of us are looking at, you know, what does a Trump presidency look like, and there's a level of unease about that, obviously. But the right appointments to the federal bench could ease a lot of those concerns.
Today Trump's campaign released a list of eleven possible U.S. Supreme Court nominees. One is from Iowa: Judge Steven Colloton of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. I am seeking comment from King on that news.
I have no doubt that King will eventually endorse Trump for president, in part because the #NeverTrump movement has failed to recruit a credible conservative alternative. The deadline for getting on the Texas ballot as an independent presidential candidate has already passed, and other state deadlines are fast approaching.
One of the most prominent #NeverTrump voices, Mitt Romney, has mostly given up looking for a third-party alternative to Trump, Jon Ward reported for Yahoo News today, citing unnamed sources close to the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.
Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. King's GOP primary challenger in IA-04, State Senator Rick Bertrand, has repeatedly confirmed that he will back Trump, assuming Trump wins the nomination. Bertrand endorsed Senator Marco Rubio before the Iowa caucuses. Speaking to the Sioux City Journal's Bret Hayworth earlier this month, he predicted a "historic landslide" for Trump against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
"He's up against a flawed candidate," Bertrand said of Trump. "He'll put states in play that haven't been in play for Republicans in years." [...]
"I'm an Anybody But Hillary right now. That's just the reality. I'm a conservative. I'm going to support the top of the ticket," Bertrand said.
P.S.- I'm still on the lookout for Iowa Republican elected officials willing to say #NeverTrump on the record. So far, I've only identified one.