Joni Ernst, center, Iowa Republican Senate candidate, and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, talk in the Pork Tent at the 2014 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 8, 2014.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty

King, Ernst eclipsed by religious leaders at Iowa summit

AMES, Iowa – Elected representatives in the Hawkeye State were largely overshadowed by religious leaders during the first half of a thinly-attended social conservative summit Saturday in central Iowa.

Steering clear of any reference to his infamous encounter with a DREAMer earlier this week, Republican Rep. Steve King seemed to be reading from an old script at the Family Leadership Summit that focused primarily on government overreach, the “erosion” of marriage, and yes, Benghazi.

“When you saw Susan Rice come before America on five major television shows, telling us that it was a video that brought this about in Benghazi, that killed Ambassador Stevens and the three other American heroes … she may or may not have known the truth the day that she said that,” said King. “But I will tell you that I know that Hillary Clinton knew the truth.”

The conservative firebrand reiterated his call to abolish the IRS, which he said “has been weaponized,” and threw in a veiled comparison between Presidents Obama and Nixon – something he has stated more overtly in the past.

“I think we remember when there was another president who decided to use the IRS to punish his political enemies, and he didn’t last long,” said King.

Though Bob Vander Plaats, president of The Family Leader and the summit’s host, hailed King’s behavior when activist Erika Andiola publicly questioned the Iowa congressman Monday on his extreme anti-immigration positions, King himself made no mention of the incident. Rather, he spoke of a recent trip to the border where he claims to have seen “a raft of two coyotes bringing a pregnant woman into America right under the nose of the border patrol.” Compared to earlier statements likening immigrants to livestock or warning that immigration was a “slow-motion terrorist attack,” the comment was somewhat tame.

Senate hopeful Joni Ernst, who spoke after King, also avoided the topic of a recent video dogging her in the media. In it, the first-term Republican state senator, suggests that states can nullify federal laws – something which is expressly forbidden under Article VI of the Constitution.

At the summit, Ernst did say that “it doesn’t take a big government organization [to make] things rights,” but offered no specific policy prescriptions.

The more stirring performances of the morning belonged to evangelical leaders. Author and political strategist Joel Rosenberg warned that America was on a “road to implosion” because of abortion laws, which he said have allowed doctors to kill exponentially more babies than were killed in the Holocaust. On conflicts in Iraq and Israel, Rosenberg said that the “end times prophecy” was coming true.

Meanwhile, Pastor Rafael Cruz – father of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is slated to speak later in the summit – compared social justice to socialism, and advocated that the church influence “every area of society.”

“Let’s stop being politically correct, and let’s become biblically correct,” said Cruz.

The two were definite crowd favorites.

“Rafael Cruz had the place fired up,” said Nebraska native Dan Higgins, who came to the event to see Rosenberg speak.

Joni Ernst and Steve King

King, Ernst eclipsed by religious leaders at Iowa summit