Congressman Steve King’s endorsement of Ted Cruz for the Iowa Caucus yesterday morning didn’t come as too shocking a surprise. With Cruz gaining the most traction of any of the Tea Party/evangelical Republicans, Iowa’s conservative leaders have gravitated toward backing the Texas Senator in hopes of uniting that wing of the party for caucus night. King’s own son joined one of the Cruz Super PACs this summer, and Cruz and King hunted together recently in Northwest Iowa.
“[Cruz] has an unmatched intellect grounded in constitutionalism, the rule of law, and American exceptionalism,” King said in endorsing Cruz. “He knows how Washington works and has successfully taken on the DC elites. He has consistently stood on principle. He has persistently reminded us that Washington won’t listen … I believe Ted Cruz is the candidate who is the answer to my prayers, a candidate whom God will use to restore the soul of America.”
While much of the reaction afterward focused on King and Cruz’s similarities and differences on immigration, one issue they are clearly far apart on is the Renewable Fuel Standard. King has said he’d fight a “holy war” against Congressional opponents seeking to repeal the RFS, which he’s called the “Holy Grail” of energy policies. Cruz, on the other hand, has staunchly opposed ethanol assistance, often touting his criticism of the measure in Iowa as a badge of honesty. Cruz’s largest business contributions come from the oil and gas industry as well, and his Super PAC received $15 million from a pair of brothers who made their fortune in the fracking industry. That’s made many worry how Iowa’s economy would be impacted under a Cruz presidency.
King’s rural, agriculture-heavy district benefits from the ethanol blending mandate like very few others. For King to back the one Republican most critical of the program that drives the economy of his district reveals a lot about his real priorities.
“The RFS is the most successful energy policy in the last 50 years for Iowans and all of America,” commented Majda Sarkic of America’s Renewable Future after King’s press conference. “It should be a high priority for the next President to make sure it continues. Ted Cruz is the most anti-ethanol candidate running for President, and if successful Iowa and our nation will continue to be addicted to foreign oil at the expense of our nation’s heartland.”
“Mr. Cruz’s policies do nothing to move our state and our country forward,” added Kim Weaver, the Democrat running against King in the 4th. “From everything I’ve seen, Mr. Cruz, much like Mr. King, is not interested in protecting family farmers (he has even referred to the Renewable Fuel Standard as “corporate welfare”), ensuring that our seniors are able to stay in their homes and receive affordable medical care, or making sure that immigration reform is a reality rather than a point of hatred and contention. Both Cruz and King represent a divisive faction of the Republican party that preaches exclusion and judgment rather than inclusion and acceptance. That is just not the Iowa way.”
The manner in which King endorsed Cruz was a bit peculiar in itself. Rather than wait until Cruz is back in the state later this week to back him in-person, King held a morning press conference at a downtown Des Moines hotel with an audience of two dozen reporters. A cynical person might think King hosted the endorsement solo in Des Moines in order to receive free, live coverage of himself, and only himself on the national news. Or perhaps he was concerned holding the event back in his home district would lead to more critical questions about Cruz’s ethanol stance.
by Pat Rynard