Powerful Iowa Congressman Is Noncommittal on Endorsement, Perry Persistent in Courting Him

Dec 30, 2011 10:02pm

MASON CITY, Iowa – Just four days before the Iowa caucuses, Rep. Steve King told reporters he still hasn’t made a decision about an endorsement “at this point” while Rick Perry admitted to a voter that he’s been quite persistent in courting King’s support.

“At this point, I just don’t know,” King told reporters when asked if he would endorse by Tuesday.

Republican candidates have sought King’s endorsement for months in the hopes that it will give them the final boost needed going into the caucus Tuesday.  In 2008, King, who is a consistent favorite in his western Iowa district,  endorsed Fred Thompson in mid-December, pushing him to a third-place finish. King was first elected to Congress in 2002 and chairs the Conservative Opportunity Society, a House caucus originally founded by Newt Gingrich in 1982.

Appearing at the same Cerro Gordo County GOP Fundraiser as King, Perry told a voter he’s asked for the Iowa congressman’s endorsement each time they’ve met.

“I told him I’ve asked him for his endorsement more times than I asked my wife to get married,” Perry told the voter. “I told him I’m going to keep asking.”

King has met with multiple candidates this week. He spoke privately with Perry at the hourlong fundraiser Friday night; he appeared at an event with Rep. Michele Bachmann earlier in the day; and he participated in a pheasant hunt with Rick Santorum on Monday.

The Iowa congressman told reporters he anticipated Santorum’s surge in the polls but was unsure if it would translate into a win on caucus night.

“I expected that he would make this move, and the question becomes how steep is the incline of the ascendancy of the Santorum movement,” said King. “I think though he’s done so much work in this state that it’s not a matter of time for him now … it isn’t that he needed another week. Rick Santorum’s been here almost all the time doing everything and the reward that will come to him will be for being in the state working the way he has.”

King characterized the race in Iowa as a game of “King of the Hill,” where candidates try to yank the frontrunners from their position at the top of the pack, suggesting that led to the decline of Newt Gingrich in the polls.

“He’s taking the heat for a lot of negative ads,” King said. “I think it should be characterized as the king of the hill in that whoever is at the top of the polls, everybody else tries to pull them off of that hill. And it’s happened over and over again, and we can name the candidates and so that’s the case also with Newt Gingrich.”

Asked if a Ron Paul win on Tuesday would delegitimize the Iowa caucuses, King said he’s not concerned that will happen, but did express unease with Paul’s foreign policy vision.

“Ron Paul’s played by the rules, and if he has a very strong finish in this state or wins it, we need to give him credit for achieving that,” King said. “The part that concerns me the most is his foreign policy piece, foreign policy that says, bring all U.S. military assets inside the borders of the United States, that would be a calamity.”

King and Perry both spoke to the crowd of about 60 people at the Mason City Country Club Friday event. Perry, who was accompanied by his wife Anita, son Griffin and daughter-in-law Meredith, agreed with a voter who suggested English should become the official language of the United States.

“That is a statement that’s not a question, and I can agree with it,” Perry responded.

Earlier this year, King introduced a bill in Congress that would make English the official language of the U.S.  government.

Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Perry, said the Texas governor has voiced support for making English the official language of the country in the past, but his focus is on other issues he believes to be more critical and should be addressed first.

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