Congressman Steve King faces worsening reelection prospects in Iowa’s very conservative 4th District, trailing a generic Democratic candidate by eight points. A new poll of the Northwest Iowa district shows King garnering just 37% of likely voters, while 45% say they’d vote for “whatever Democrat runs.” A hypothetical rematch with his 2018 opponent J.D. Scholten has King at 39% and Scholten at 44%.
A sizable portion of the electorate would also like to see King resign outright from Congress. 43% of respondents said King should resign; 44% believed he should not.
The poll was commissioned by the Majority Rules PAC and run by the polling firm 20-20 Insight during Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
King has dominated national and state news the past two weeks after pondering in a New York Times interview, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive?”
At the national level, House Republicans stripped King of all his committee assignments. Here in Iowa, a credible primary challenger has emerged in State Senator Randy Feenstra, and more may get in to challenge King for the party’s nomination.
It all comes after King faced his closest reelection race ever in November, eking out a three-point win over Scholten in a district that Donald Trump won by 27 points.
The nonstop headlines have had its impact. The poll found King’s favorability ratings underwater and lagging far behind other Republicans.
Only 42% of voters in the 4th District had a favorable opinion of King, while 54% said they had an unfavorable view. That trails Republican Governor Kim Reynolds’ favorability numbers by 19 points. She’s at a 61% favorable, 31% unfavorable rating in the 4th District. King underperformed Reynolds by about 17 points in the election.
King’s numbers also fall behind Senator Joni Ernst (59% favorable, 30% unfavorable) and Trump (57% favorable, 42% unfavorable). Scholten has a net-favorable rating (35% favorable, 18% unfavorable), though nearly half of voters said they didn’t have an opinion of him or know enough about him.
The general election matchup percentages for King also badly underperform the rest of the Republican ticket. While King trails by eight points with a generic Democrat, Ernst leads a generic Democrat by 23 points.
King is struggling with part of the Republican base, but he still retains good marks there. Among respondents who identified as Republican, King has a 32% unfavorable rating and 68% favorable. And 18% of those Republicans say they would favor the generic Democrat over King in a general election. However, this is not a poll of the Republican primary electorate; more information will need to be gathered there at some point.
But his poor showing in a potential general election matchup should worry state and national Republican leaders, and it should give some extra ammunition to those seeking to challenge King in the primary. A Democrat capturing the 4th District, the heart of the Republican Party’s base in Iowa, would be a stunning development.
While this poll was conducted right after the height of news coverage of King losing his committee spots and the near-unanimous House vote to condemn his statements, it’s not like King’s situation is going to improve. Feenstra announced yesterday that his campaign had raised over $100,000 in the first ten days since announcing. King will almost certainly struggle to raise any money at this point. Reynolds has said she will not back King in the primary.
More importantly, King has announced he will hold public town hall forums in each of his district’s 39 counties. That presents the real possibility that he’ll get baited into making even more racist and incendiary comments as the year moves on. Considering there will be countless national reporters in Iowa for the Democrats’ Iowa Caucus, it’s entirely likely that King will find his way back into many national news cycles. That could continue to wear on his support in the district as a Republican primary forms.
The poll had a size of 472 respondents with a margin of error of +/- 4.5%. You can view the full crosstabs here. The Majority Rules PAC is an organization focused on promoting fair elections and fighting against gerry-mandering efforts.
by Pat Rynard