Governor Kim Reynolds’ final rally of her campaign will be held in Sioux Center with Congressman Steve King.
Mired in state and national controversy over the past two weeks for his history of racist statements, King has become radioactive to many leaders within the Republican Party. The chair of the NRCC condemned King for promoting white supremacy, while conservative opinion leaders from The National Review to the Wall Street Journal editorial page has called for King to go.
But when pressed by reporters last week, Reynolds refused to remove King as her campaign co-chair, something she’s faced pressure over multiple times during her candidacy. Now she’ll share a stage with King in the final campaign event of her extremely close race for governor.
Here is a clip of my asking @KimReynoldsIA if she'll remove @SteveKingIA as campaign co-chair, in wake of calls for her to do so. "I can't be held responsible for everyone's comments. I can be held responsible for myself," she told me. WACTH ⬇️#iagov #iapolitics pic.twitter.com/4RJS8rDdGV
— Caroline Cummings (@CaroRCummings) October 31, 2018
Reynolds will hopscotch across Iowa today with events at small private plane fields, completing her campaign tour with a private or chartered airplane. Her last three events are in conservative Western Iowa, finishing up in deeply-conservative Sioux Center. King announced in a press release this morning that he would attend that same 7:00 PM event in Sioux Center. Senator Joni Ernst will also be there.
That corner of Northwest Iowa is typically crucial to Republicans’ statewide efforts. Joni Ernst carried Sioux County with 87% of the vote, racking up a 10,000-vote margin from that relatively small county alone. The total vote margin that Republicans come out of the four Northwest Iowa counties with have sometimes eclipsed the Democratic margins from Polk County.
But there’s real danger this time for Reynolds in being seen with King in the most conservative corner of the state. She’s been bleeding support in the once-Republican suburbs, and the final image of her campaign being one where she’s side by side with King could further drive those voters away.
Recent polling has shown King’s reelection hopes suddenly at risk after this latest spate of controversies have seem to have cut through to voters in a way others haven’t. King’s Democratic opponent J.D. Scholten has raised over a million dollars in the final week, allowing him to fill the TV airwaves while King just finally went up on TV five days out from the election.
There’s other potential issues for today’s trip. Iowans probably won’t know what or whose plane Reynolds is being flown around on today until campaign finance reports after the election, but it’s a curious choice given past controversies.
Reynolds began her governorship by flying around the state on casino owner Gary Kirke’s plane the day after she was inaugurated. Kirke had a proposed casino up for state approval at the time, which caused significant public criticism surrounding the optics of the free, in-kind plane rides.
Air travel-related controversies cropped up again a few months ago when Reynolds’ use of a state vendor’s corporate plane to attend the ISU bowl game in December of 2017. The CEO of Sedwick, a workers compensation administrator that has a contract with the state of Iowa, flew Reynolds and her family to the game. Reynolds’ campaign insisted they also held “bona fide campaign events” during the half-day event and that it wasn’t simply a personal benefit, though that excuse could be used to justify literally any in-kind expense.
The Des Moines Register poll showed Fred Hubbell up 2 points in their final poll released on Saturday. Democratic early vote returns have looked strong this year, out-pacing their 2014 totals by a decent margin while Republicans’ early vote has stayed about the same.
by Pat Rynard