Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who already had a deeply unfortunate reputation, has spent the summer playing with fire. In recent months, the congressman promoted online content from a self-described “Nazi sympathizer” in the U.K.; he threw his support behind a fringe mayoral candidate in Toronto who gained notoriety after she appeared on a neo-Nazi podcast; and in August, King spoke with members of a far-right Austrian party with historical Nazi ties.
The question then became one of consequences. What, if anything, would happen to King as a result of his latest antics?
This week, the answer has started to come into focus. First, the editorial page of the Sioux City Journal in the congressman’s home district, which has endorsed King in previous election cycles, announced its support for his challenger, J.D. Scholten (D).
Soon after, Land O’Lakes, the agri-business giant, announced that its political action committee will no longer offer financial support to the far-right congressman.
But the most striking development was National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) publishing this tweet today, not only criticizing King, but tying the Iowa Republican to “white supremacy.”
“Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.”
Remember, Steve Stivers’ sole focus right now, aside from his own re-election, is trying to help as many House Republicans as possible win their races. It’s against this backdrop that, just a week before Election Day, that the NRCC chair publicly rebuked King in rather direct terms.
What’s more, Stivers’ criticism apparently reflects a larger party sentiment. An NRCC spokesperson confirmed to Roll Call that Stivers’ tweet “should be interpreted as a signal that the group would not be making any last-minute expenditures in the race despite the district appearing to be in play.”
And for King that may be a problem. TPM added that J.D. Scholten has aired $1.4 million in TV ads in recent weeks, while King has been largely silent – the result of his weak fundraising, which has left him with just $200,000 in the bank.
If King doesn’t have the money for an 11th-hour push, and the National Republican Congressional Committee isn’t coming to his rescue, the far-right incumbent may be in some trouble.
Of course, “may” is the key word. Iowa’s 4th congressional district is extremely conservative – Donald Trump won the district by 27 points – and in the last couple of cycles, King has won re-election with more than 60% support. With a partisan voter index rating of R+11, it’s easily the least competitive district in Iowa.
And yet, weird things happen. Dems are running a likable and well-financed candidate with roots in the area, and much of King’s focus of late has been on right-wing extremists in foreign countries rather than developments in northwest Iowa, which has, among other things, been adversely affected by the White House’s trade tariffs.
King is still the favorite – FiveThirtyEight says he has an 82% chance of winning – but he’s looking less and less like a sure thing.