Iowa representative Steve King will back Ted Cruz in the 2016 caucuses, handing Cruz an influential conservative endorsement in the crucial early-voting state.
King, a firebrand who holds sway in social-conservative circles and in his western Iowa district, made the announcement Monday morning in Des Moines.
“I believe Ted Cruz is the answer to my prayers: the candidate that God will use to restore the soul of America,” he said at his press conference.
The optics and organization of the press conference, announced late Sunday afternoon, were odd for King and Cruz, two politicians who have never shied away from the spotlight. It was a small event, conducted in a hotel ballroom. Cruz was not present for the endorsement, having previously scheduled a Monday morning event in South Carolina. His campaign scooped the congressman on the endorsement, blasting it out on social media as King’s remarks were still winding up to the endorsement.
King’s support for Cruz could change the face of the caucuses, potentially helping Christian conservatives to coalesce behind a single candidate, something that voting bloc has struggled to do in the past. “Our destruction in the past has been division — we divide ourselves among a lot of candidates,” Bob Vander Plaats, who runs The Family Leader, told National Review last month.
Iowa Republicans have long postulated that Cruz could be the rare candidate who might be able to unite the social-conservative flank, securing himself a top spot in the caucuses.
#share#And that makes the timing of King’s endorsement significant. The announcement comes just four days before Iowa social conservatives gather in Des Moines for The Family Leader’s Presidential Family Forum. Cruz is scheduled to speak at the forum, along with Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum.
The event will be a big factor in The Family Leader’s endorsement, says Vander Plaats, who intends to make a personal endorsement if the group cannot coalesce behind a single candidate. King’s endorsement, coming just days before, could help sway social conservatives into Cruz’s corner.
#related#If The Family Leader were to join King in backing Cruz it could clear a path for him and deal a huge blow to the other candidates trying to compete in the same lane. King pointed to the importance of the social-conservative voting bloc in his endorsement speech, noting that he felt it was important to back a candidate who could turn out those voters.
King’s endorsement of Cruz comes as little surprise to Iowa Republicans, who have long believed he was leaning toward the Texas senator. Jeff King, one of the congressman’s sons, is running a super PAC backing Cruz, and state senator Bill Anderson, who advises King on policy, has endorsed Cruz. Iowa Republicans contended that Jeff King, especially, would not have thrown his weight behind Cruz without the tacit blessing of his father.
What’s more, King and Cruz are friends, and their mutual affection and respect were evident when the two hunted pheasants together late last month.
Still, King is a shrewd politician, who had made clear he would not endorse a candidate unless he believed that person could win. He did not endorse in 2012, despite his close friendship with Michele Bachmann. He last endorsed in 2008, when he backed Fred Thompson.
The timing also means the Iowa Freedom Summit, the cattle call King held last January that launched Scott Walker’s moment in the stars, is unlikely to happen with the congressman’s involvement. Candidates would be unlikely to show up to an event organized by King now that he has thrown his weight behind Cruz.
— Alexis Levinson is the senior political reporter for National Review.