It looks like Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is in the fight of his political life.
After five terms and a decade of being handily reelected to Congress, Steve King has been redistricted into Iowa’s new fourth Congressional district, where he is being challenged by the state’s former first lady, Christie Vilsack. They’ve essentially been running against each other for more than a year, since Vilsack announced her candidacy, and for a multi-term incumbent like King, the race is uncomfortably close.
Here’s the money quote from Roll Call yesterday:
As a result, King has not been able to put the race away more than a year after Vilsack announced her candidacy. GOP internal polling shows a single-digit race with King picking up less than 50 percent of the vote. This week, one plugged-in national Republican privately named King as one of the five GOP incumbents most likely to not return to Congress next year.
Vilsack’s main line of attack against King—that he’s an ultraconservative bully more interested in pushing his anti-immigrant, extremist agenda around on the national stage than representing the interests of Iowans—has gained her so much popular and financial support that outsiders have been coming in to throw King a lifeline. Mitt Romney came to Iowa to endorse King, calling King the kind of “partner” he needed in Washington, only to back away from him a week later in the face of widespread outrage following a King comment where he said that comparing immigrants to dogs was a “compliment.” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is coming to town next week to fundraise for King. The National Republican Congressional Committee has had to step in to buy advertising airtime in King’s district (as well as Iowa’s three other districts, which have become similarly heated races between Republicans and Democrats). Iowa’s Republican Governor Terry Branstad has had to send two of his top staffers to run King’s campaign and communications operation, as well as introduce his own donors to King—one factor that has helped King stay financially competitive with Vilsack this year.
King’s fellow Republicans in Congress are also trying to make sure King understands how dire the situation is. As Politico wrote yesterday:
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions had a ‘Come to Jesus’ talk to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on the House floor Tuesday. Top Republicans are meeting with potential problem children this week, having one-on-one talks on the House floor…Their message: Shape up, or find yourself out of a job in January.
As the Vilsack campaign summed up King’s situation:
Republican leaders are worried, and they have good reason to be. Throughout this campaign King has been unable to explain his record to voters and has instead doubled down on some of his most outrageous statements. Voters realize that he has spent ten years looking out for himself, not looking out for the middle class, and they know he hasn’t earned a sixth term in Congress.