If you didn’t know Congressman Steve King was facing a primary challenge this June, the Fourth Congressional District Convention this past Saturday wouldn’t have changed your way of thinking. Not only were the grounds outside of the Fort Dodge High School covered in King for Congress signs, the delegates meeting inside the school’s gymnasium were solidly behind their incumbent representative.
Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey, also made no bones about who he is supporting in the primary – Congressman Steve King. When Northey told the assembled convention delegates that the district already has a thoughtful conservative representative in Congress he got a standing ovation from at least 90 percent of gave him a standing ovation.
King’s challenger, State Senator Rick Bertrand, had a booth in the lunchroom, but he opted not to show up to the convention. While the delegates are clearly in King’s corner, the decision not to speak to the grassroots activists he hopes to represent sent a bad message. Speaking to what could be a hostile crowd is never easy, but Bertrand knew what he was signing up for when he decided to challenge King. Regardless of the audience, he should have gone and made his case to the delegates.
On Thursday, State Senator Rick Bertrand made it official, announcing that he’s challenging Republican Congressman Steve King in the 4th Congressional District primary.
High profile primary challenges against incumbents are rare occurrences in Iowa, especially one challenging a conservative stalwart in the most conservative district in the state. Not only is King universally known, but Bertrand is also attempting to oust a sitting Congressman in a campaign that will last just 82 days.
The word daunting just doesn’t quite seem to describe the task Bertrand has chosen to take on. Some may believe it will be impossible for Bertrand to be successful in this endeavor. That sort of thinking is justified, but as is the case with most things in life, where there is great risk, there is also great reward.
King’s strengths are well known. He’s intelligent. He has developed a real connection with the grassroots of the Republican Party because he’s willing to fight the good fight and champion core issues. King has also has a history of being a good campaigner, the type that goes everywhere and does everything.
King’s weaknesses are equally known. While smart, his choice of words or use of certain analogies repeatedly get him in trouble with the media. He’s a notoriously poor fundraiser. Despite being a 14-year incumbent, King has never figured out how to keep his campaign coffers full which, at times, makes him a charity case but also means that he’s not able to help the effort to expand the Republican majority in the U.S. House.
Since redistricting in 2012, King’s Democrat opponents have raised more money than he has for his campaigns. That doesn’t bother King one bit. He wears the fact that he has won despite being outspent as a badge of honor. King will likely be outraised in the abbreviated primary against Bertrand. At the end of 2015, King reported having just $118,000 in the bank. Even without a primary challenger until now, King has spent more money than he has taken in during the current election cycle.
While Republican activists may struggle with Bertrand’s decision to run against an incumbent congressman, the hill he now has to climb is not insurmountable. There has always been a rub between King and the business community is Sioux City, which is something Bertrand will have to exploit if he is to be successful. Furthermore, the current configuration of the fourth district provides Bertrand opportunity to stake out territory as there are more counties in the fourth district that were represented by Tom Latham than King before redistricting.
In some ways, trying to knock of King in a primary may be easier than waiting and running once King vacates the seat. There are plenty of Republicans who are eager to run for the seat, which would make for a costly and crowded primary. While challenging an incumbent will not make him popular with some people, he is the lone alternative to King. With no other Republican primaries taking place, it’s a rather simple game – whoever turns out the most people to vote wins. Bertrand may benefit from some Democrats and independents who do not like King playing in the Republican primary.
Besides fundraising, another King liability is message discipline. Just look at the press release his campaign sent out Thursday evening. It was petty and defensive. It said nothing of what he hopes to accomplish for the fourth district, and instead read like a “how dare they challenge me” letter.
King’s release also included the following paragraph.
Over the last few weeks, calls came from a surprisingly large number of potential candidates who were asked to challenge me in a primary by a couple of wealthy and petulant establishment Republicans who think they should own a Congressman. In every case but one, the answer was a resounding ‘No.’
What King fails to mention is that those “petulant establishment Republicans” are also constituents who donated to his campaign and organized fundraising events for him in his previous two campaigns. King is obviously bitter and distracted by a couple of individuals instead of his actual opponent.
King would be wise to rise above petty bickering, but he chose to close out his press release with the following snide sentence. “I regret the impending needless and blatant dishonesty which will surely come from my opposition.” Again, how dare someone challenge The King?
Bertrand is a talented politician, and it is a mistake to not take him seriously. He not only was able to win a tough State Senate District in 2010, but he was able to also get re-elected. I don’t know really know Bertrand all that well, but he’s impressive on the stump and meets people well. His business background should also be a benefit.
At his announcement on Thursday, Bertrand painted a positive vision for his campaign and the fourth district. Bertrand believes that the Highway 20 expansion, which is being completed in large part because of the gas tax increase that he supported, makes the district the state’s new economic frontier.
As for his challenge to King, Bertrand told the Sioux City Journal, “The District needs a more effective congressman to push for changes required to maximize that growth.” He added, “I am not going in there to be a national figure. I am going to be likable and effective.” Over the past 14 years, Bertrand believes that King has become institutionalized.
Even though King has led the vocal opposition in Washington during his time there, he’s not been able to land key leadership positions in the house, mainly because of his poor relationship with leadership. This sounds like it will be the main argument put forth by Bertrand’s campaign. There have been numerous occasions where King was in line to chair a committee, only to be passed up. The most recent example was the influential Ag Committee, which King lost to Texas Congressman Mike Conaway. Unlike King, Conaway raised big money to help the GOP effort in the 2014 mid-term elections.
Presidential politics also helped pave the way for Bertrand’s decision to primary King. King is one of Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s national campaign chairmen. Presidential campaigns cause people to splinter in different groups, and with a field of 17 candidates, people fell into a number of different camps. King’s endorsement of Cruz came as no surprise, but it did pit him against the ethanol industry, which was already weary of the freshman Senator from Texas because one of the first pieces of legislation Cruz pushed was a repeal of the Renewable Fuels Standard.
Despite being a staunch support of the RFS, King repeatedly sang Cruz’s praises and helped convince Iowa voters that a Cruz presidency would be good for the ethanol industry. Ironically, after the campaign left Iowa, Cruz now makes a point in election night speeches and on national debate stages to tell people how he took on the ethanol industry in Iowa and won. Most people can understand why members of Iowa’s renewable fuels industry are a little upset with King.
This race is sure to be in the political spotlight from now until primary day on the first Tuesday in June. If King’s press release is any indication, this is going to be a bitter battle.
A week ago, Texas Senator Ted Cruz scored a big victory in Iowa, garnering over 51,000 votes. It’s record breaking number that is even more impressive when you consider that one of the state’s largest special interests, the renewable fuels industry, as well as Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, made it abundantly clear that Cruz was on the wrong side of renewable fuels standard.
Perhaps more impressive that Cruz’s ground game in Iowa was how he litigated the ethanol issue with Iowa voters. Take for instance how he answered a question in the Fox News debate just days before the Iowa caucuses.
Cruz’s answer was pitch perfect. His critics in Iowa were telling voters that he was outright hostile to the renewable fuels industry, but Cruz pointed out time and time again that he actually supports ethanol, and his policies would be good for the industry. Congressman Steve King, a strong advocate of the Renewable Fuels Standard, argued that Cruz’s position on the RFS was misunderstood. Cruz even campaigned in Iowa with Dave Vander Griend, the CEO of a firm that designs ethanol plants.
The message the Cruz campaign was trying to get across to Iowa voters was that Ted Cruz wasn’t hostile to the ethanol industry. It worked. Either Cruz’s position on the RFS didn’t matter to voters, or he was successful in convincing them that he wasn’t out to get the industry like Branstad and America’s Renewable Future, the group who was attacking Cruz on the issue, made him out to be.
Yet in the final moments of ABC’s Republican debate in New Hampshire on Saturday night, Cruz offered a much different tune on the ethanol issue.
Cruz “Campaigned in the state of Iowa four-square against the ethanol mandate?
On the campaign trail in Iowa, Cruz touted that he supported an eventually phase out of the RFS, which is different from the legislation that he authored in 2013 that would have immediately repealed it. Is he opposed to the mandate? Sure, but it was clear to everyone watching that the Cruz campaign went above and beyond in Iowa to convince Iowans that he wasn’t bad for an industry that employs 73,000 Iowans and contributes five billion dollars in Iowa wages.
It’s telling that four days after winning the Iowa caucuses, Cruz went out of his way while standing on a stage in New Hampshire to tell the tale of how he took it to the ethanol industry in Iowa. The truth of the matter is that spent the last month of his campaign in Iowa trying to have it both ways, and like the well-educated trial lawyer that he is, he was able to convince enough of the jury not to convict him.
However, after watching his closing statement in New Hampshire on Saturday night, some Iowans may now feel differently.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz was welcomed to Sioux Center on Tuesday night by a robust crowd at Dordt College. The Cruz campaign rolled into town in big fancy bus, and rolled out a persuasive narrative that the first-term Senator from Texas has been able to do something few presidential candidates have been able to accomplish – unite conservatives behind one candidate.
It wasn’t just Congressman Steve King and Bob Vander Plaats were there to show their support of Cruz. Campaign videos before and after the event featured other well-known conservatives who backed Cruz’s candidacy. Cruz himself speaks of a coming revival in America, which will obviously be led by someone with impeccable conservative credentials, himself.
Cruz quickly taps into the frustration held by many Republicans. “In 2010, we were told that Republicans would stand and fight if only we had a Republican House,” Cruz told an agreeable audience. “In 2014, we were told that Republicans would stand and fight just as soon as we won a majority in the Senate and retired Harry Reid,” he added.
Indeed Republicans are frustrated with Washington, especially the omnibus spending bill that was pushed through the Republican controlled House with the help of Democrats. Cruz’s presidential campaign is as much of a campaign against Washington as it is a campaign to win the Republican nomination.
The campaign that Cruz has assembled is impressive. As mentioned earlier, the big name endorsements not only create a narrative that Cruz is the only viable conservative in race, but they also provide him ample political cover on the issues which some of his opponents have tried to exploit.
If you want to claim that Cruz isn’t solid on the issue of traditional marriage because he supports each state’s rights to define it, not only to do you have to battle the perception that he has built over the years as a right-wing firebrand, but you also have to deal with the fact that he’s been endorsed by Vander Plaats, James Dobson, and the National Organization of Marriage. Even thought Cruz is willing to tolerate 50 different shades of gay marriage in America, good luck convincing the average caucus goer that he’s out of step with them on the issue of gay marriage.
The same is true on the immigration issue. It doesn’t matter that Cruz publically stated that he wanted immigration reform to pass. The perception is that Cruz is a hardliner on immigration, and he has the endorsement of Congressman Steve King to validate it. On Wednesday, Manu Raju of CNN did an excellent job of reporting on the actual steps Cruz took during the debate on the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill.
If you listen to those who are either under the employ of his campaign or one of the well-financed Super PAC backing his candidacy, Cruz was simply planting a “poison pill” to derail the legislation. Raju’s article explains something entirely different.
That doesn’t sound like someone who is only interested in derailing the legislation.
Then there is the issue of the Renewable Fuels Standard. There is no doubt that Cruz does not the policy that a certain percentage of renewable fuels should be blended with gasoline. Cruz proposed legislation in 2014 that would have phased out and repealed the RFS over the period of five years. Cruz has stuck to his guns and continually stated that he is opposed to all federal mandates and subsidies, but he’s also gone out of his way to make it appear that he’s not hostile to the industry, which has created some confusion.
On Wednesday, America’s Renewable Future, the pro-RFS group that has been critical of Cruz’s stance, issued a press release that indicated that Cruz had softened his stance on the issue. The only problem was that Cruz really hadn’t said anything differently than he’s said before. The faux pa occurred because Cruz is going out of his way to convince Iowan’s that while he opposes the RFS, he’s pro-ethanol.
On Tuesday night when asked about the issue, Cruz devoted a good five to minutes or so to his answer. He clearly stated that he didn’t support mandates and subsidies, adding that government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers. While Cruz may be consistent on the issue, when asked about removing oil subsidies for the oil industry by an Iowan earlier this year, Cruz struck a different tone.
Cruz has also attempted to throw the ethanol industry a bone by claiming that as president, he would eliminate the EPA’s blend wall, which he claims would essentially pave the way for higher ethanol blends and thus the need to produce more ethanol.
It sounds good and is a clever argument, but the reality of the situation is that if the oil and gas industry isn’t forced to blend ethanol with a percentage of the transportation fuel the produce, they are unlikely to do it even if there is a market demand for it.
Cruz’s best argument is that his tax plan would level the playing field, which again sounds great, but only if he’s able to get his flat tax proposal through congress, which, last I checked, would require 60 votes in the Senate and thus require Democrat support.
The ironic thing about Cruz’s message is that, on one hand, he laments the Republicans being misled in 2010 and 2014, but on the other, he’s doing exactly the same thing to win the Republican nomination.
Cruz is going county to county talking about a conservative revival. He’s promising that he has a plan to restore traditional marriage, and leaders in that movement have bent over backwards to vouch for him. The only problem is that Cruz’s actual plan involves the passing of a constitutional amendment which either requires a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s never going to happen. A state like Iowa has not been able to pass its own constitutional amendment, but let alone show any initiative to participate in a federal constitutional remedy to this problem.
On immigration, as a presidential candidate, Cruz is a hardliner who believes that strengthening border security will essentially solve the problem. For years securing the border has been a top priority of every Republican presidential candidate, but why would Cruz, somebody who doesn’t have much sway with his colleagues in congress, be able to accomplish something that others have failed to deliver on?
Cruz talks about how the American people are going to rise up and demand action on the immigration issue. That may be true of Republicans, but the problem is that Democrats have no incentive to help solve the problem, so again we are looking at needing Democrat support to move legislation that Cruz is promising.
The same is sadly true on the RFS. There is little doubt that the RFS would expire under Cruz and thus the ethanol industry would have to fend for itself. I get why Republicans hate mandates and love the concept of a free market, but it seems to me we are being unnecessarily tough on an industry that already isn’t subsidized.
The federal government doesn’t expend a dime on the ethanol industry. All the RFS does is set a policy that we should blend a percentage of fuel with ethanol. The same can’t be said for wind, solar, gas, and oil. I agree: take all the subsidies away, but as we heard Cruz himself say, it’s not fair to pull the rug out from under one industry.
The root cause of behind all of these layoffs are low commodity prices, which reduce the demand for equipment and other ag-related goods. There have been countless articles about how Iowa’s economy isn’t necessarily so dependent on agriculture, but in my neighborhood in Ankeny, one of the fastest growing communities in the state, is full of people who work at John Deere. When I hear news of those layoffs, I can’t help but think of my neighbors.
Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is impressive in many ways. It is well funded, and positioned to do well in Iowa and beyond. The candidate is extremely bright and articulate. The TV and message branding are top notch. Most impressive is that the campaign is on the ground and committed to winning Iowa.
The problem is that Cruz is guilty of giving people the same false hope that he that he despises from the 2010 and 2014 elections. If he is able to win the nomination and become President, I doubt he would really care if he can’t deliver on what he promised.
Since the day he announced his candidacy, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been making the case that he’s the conservative candidate who can win the Republican nomination. It doesn’t matter if he is speaking to a group of homeschool kids and their parents, Cruz closes by telling his audience about how much money his campaign has raised and that he is positioned to win.
Now as we enter the final phase of the 2016 caucus campaign, Cruz has a handful of prominent Iowa endorsements to go along with all of his campaign cash. The big three statewide Republican elected officials, Governor Terry Branstad and Senators Grassley and Ernst, are not expected to endorse anybody. This means the endorsements of Congressman Steve King, Iowa’s conservative firebrand, and social conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats, are all the more important.
No presidential candidate has ever enjoyed the endorsement of both King and Vander Plaats. And while they are both social conservatives, they represent two different sides of the conservative voting bloc in Iowa. King is known for his outspokenness on immigration and the fiscal mess in Washington. Vander Plaats is known for leading the fight against the Iowa Supreme Court Justices who ushered gay marriage into Iowa in 2009.
The two big endorsements of King and Vander Plaats and the scads of other endorsements Cruz has picked up along they way do more than just make him the clear conservative frontrunner in Iowa, they also build huge expectations for Cruz in Iowa. Earlier this year, Cruz’s campaign hinted at a March 1 strategy that focused more on Super Tuesday than any of the early states. Now that Cruz is fully invested in Iowa, it will be key for him to win Iowa in order to win the nomination.
Like it or not, Cruz must now meet or exceed expectations in Iowa. Win, and he will be in a great position to win the Republican nomination. Lose, and it’s going to be a much more difficult road. With his resources and big name endorsements, his campaign needs to focus on winning, not managing expectations.
Not really a unanimous decision.
Cruz did not receive the endorsement of The FAMiLY Leader. Instead, he landed the personal endorsements of Vander Plaats, the group’s Vice President Chuck Hurley, the chairman of The FAMiLY Leader Board of Directors Robert Cramer, and the pastor to the board.
Vander Plaats stated at the press conference that the group’s board unanimously voted to encourage the individuals to endorse. He also said that The FAMiLY Leader board also voted unanimously not to endorse a candidate, and instead would remain the standard bearer for Christian principles.
Vander Plaats was asked by an Associated Press reporter about a 9-1 board vote back on November 30th, where Cruz came up one vote short of getting the organization’s endorsement. Vander Plaats explained that the vote was a preliminary vote to gauge where board members were at. In a Des Moines Register article, Vander Plaats acknowledged that one board member did abstain because of a personal friendship with another candidate.
TheIowaRepublican.com chatted with that board member last week, and he indicated that his vote not to endorse Cruz wasn’t just because of his personal relationship with Rick Santorum. So, while Vander Plaats went out of his way to make everything look unanimous, not everyone on the board was in lock-step with going with Cruz.
Viability was a key factor.
Vander Plaats mentioned in his endorsement of Cruz that financial resources and the ability to win the nomination were a key factor in getting behind Cruz. Vander Plaats spoke about how the previous two winners won Iowa but struggled because of a lack of resources. Cruz has raised over $26 million for his campaign and has a well-financed group of Super PACs that will also help him navigate the Republican nomination process.
Again, the focus on viability and money is odd coming from Vander Plaats, a three-time gubernatorial candidate who never had the most money in his coffers and thus had to rely on grassroots support. That makes Vander Plaats’ endorsement of Cruz sting even more for Santorum and especially Huckabee who had repeatedly supported Vander Plaats in all of his political endeavors over the past eight years.
For months, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise and increase its proposed volume obligations for renewable biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014, 2015 and 2016. After hearing from Grassley and other senators, the EPA released a final rule today that improves the volume requirements over its last proposal but still underestimates the capacity for farmers and ethanol and biodiesel producers to generate enough renewable fuel to meet higher goals. Grassley made the following comment on the final rule.
“This rule is a slight improvement but it still sells biofuels short. The EPA just doesn’t appreciate that farmers and biofuels producers can generate enough renewable fuels to meet the goals set by Congress. The EPA doesn’t seem to appreciate that the law on the books requires strong biofuels targets and that consumers like the chance to use alternate fuels. Instead, the EPA took a flawed approach that seems to buy into Big Oil’s rhetoric. The new rule is not only more than two years late, but it also sets back the development of next generation biofuels. This rule undermines the efforts to commercialize the next generation of biofuels. It’s unfortunate that this Administration, which claims to be for renewable and clean energy, would stand in the way of the production and use of more renewable fuels.”
Branstad, Reynolds release statement on EPA’s final Renewable Fuel Standard rule
(DES MOINES)– Gov. Terry E. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today released statements upon learning of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume obligation levels for 2014, 2015 and 2016.
“I am extremely disappointed that the EPA’s final decision failed to follow the renewable volume levels set by Congress,” said Branstad. “Unfortunately, today’s decision shows the lack of interest in providing consumers choice at the pump, creating jobs and increasing incomes in Rural America, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. This rule falls far too short of a robust RFS and short of the standards set by Congress.”
“This entire process has negatively impacted Iowa families through reduced commodity prices, farm incomes, and farmland values,” said Reynolds. “We were hopeful that the EPA would fully recognize the importance of renewable fuels after years of regulatory uncertainty. However, the EPA’s decision only marginally improves volume levels in a step that will hurt Iowa families, businesses, and farmers.”
The State of Iowa has supported both the production and use of biofuels, including renewable fuel infrastructure development through the Fueling Our Future Program and the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program, to ensure that consumers have true choices at the pump.
Branstad and Reynolds have been engaged in calling for a strong and robust Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) over the past two years.
Highlights of Iowa leaders’ engagement on the RFS include:
State and Federal elected officials, including Gov. Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds, participated in a “Defend the RFS” event.
Gov. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Reynolds, Secretary Bill Northey and the entire Iowa congressional delegation sent a joint letter to Federal leadersadvocating for the many benefits that flow from the RFS.
Gov. Terry Branstad and Gov. Mark Dayton (D-MN) penned an op-ed in support of a strong Renewable Fuel Standard.
Gov. Terry Branstad brought together a bipartisan group of six governors to sign on to a letter to President Barack Obama, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing their support for a strong RFS.
Leaders from across the Midwest joined Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds for their “Hearing in Heartland,” which was open to all interested citizens; 83 panelists from across the Midwest Region spoke from the heart about the importance of the RFS to their livelihoods and a healthy rural economy while only two individuals expressed opposition to a robust RFS.
State of Iowa leaders submitted formal comments to the EPA with current data and analysis that provides Federal leaders the opportunity and obligation to revise their initial volume obligations upward.
Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds underscored the importance of the RFS at the grand opening of Dupont’s cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa in October.
IOWA FARM BUREAU DISAPPOINTED BY JUST-ANNOUNCED ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY BIOFUEL TARGETS
Farm Leaders Equate Ruling to a ‘Win’ for Big Oil, at the Expense of the American Farmer
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – November 30, 2015 – The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), Iowa’s largest grassroots general farm organization, expressed disappointment in the renewable volume obligations (RVOs) just announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The long-awaited and overdue 2014, 2015 and 2016 targets are years behind schedule and fall short of the agreed-upon levels farmers anticipated. “While an increase of biofuels from the original proposed rule is welcome news, the simple truth is, this falls far short of promises made to Iowa farmers by Congress in 2007. We know the EPA is using a flawed methodology to calculate the biofuels targets, which amounts to a win for Big Oil,” says IFBF President Craig Hill. “What’s worse is this makes it apparent that the EPA under this administration is continuing its pattern of ignoring and violating Congressional intent, at the detriment of farmers and our economy, which is especially troubling in Iowa, where one out of every five jobs comes from agriculture.”
Critics have long argued that lowered RFS/RVO targets translate to a boom for Big Oil, because the industry stalled on distribution solutions which were carefully spelled out in the Energy and Independent Security Act (EISA) passed by the President and Congress in 2007. “Production is there; the technology and innovation to grow biofuels is there, but once again, the EPA continues to disappoint the American farmer,” says Hill, a longtime corn, soybean and livestock farmer. “Just know that IFBF’s support for innovation and energy independence is steadfast. Our work continues.”
Santorum responds to Obama’s biofuels ruling
VERONA, PA – Republican presidential candidate, and proud supporter of the Renewable Fuels Standard, Rick Santorum (R-PA) issued the following statement in response to the Obama Administration’s regulatory overreach targeted at the biofuels industry.
Rick Santorum said: “Today’s decision by the Obama Administration is yet another example of this President using his regulatory power to ignore a clear congressional mandate, and break the law in the process. Let’s be clear, President Obama does not have the authority to change a congressional mandate. I support the ethanol and biofuels industry and stand by the mandate remaining the same because of the importance of supporting domestically produced energy. But regardless of what someone thinks of the RFS, conservatives and all Americans alike, should not stand by this President’s continued abuse of power.”
King Comments on Final RFS Volume Requirements
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Steve King released the following statement after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the final volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014 through 2016:
Senator Ted Cruz landed a coveted Iowa endorsement on Monday when Congressman Steve King, the conservative standard bearer, backed the Texas Senator’s presidential bid. King’s endorsement of Cruz should come as no surprise. Both are firebrands who, at times, take slings and arrows from members of their own party. They also don’t mind returning the favor.
Beyond the fact that the two are cast from the same ideological mold, King’s endorsement was also somewhat telegraphed. King’s son, Jeff, signed on a to one of the pro-Cruz Super PACs back in July, and the Cruz campaign has publically stated that they would be shocked if King didn’t endorse. King also took the stage at Cruz’s religious freedom rally in August and an earlier rally following the disappointing Supreme Court decisions this past June. Still, King’s endorsement of a presidential candidate is like a conservative seal of approval for a candidate, but in this instance, a candidate like Cruz probably didn’t need someone to certify that he’s a conservative.
What does Cruz get from a King endorsement?
If there is one endorsement that really carries weight in Iowa, it’s King’s. Not only is he the most outspoken conservative high-profile elected official in the state, but King will actually want to be integrally involved in the campaign he’s endorsing. This was noticeable the last time he endorsed a presidential candidate in 2008. King’s choice that year was former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. The knock on Thompson was that he wasn’t all that into retail campaigning, but once King got involved, he energized the campaign.
Thompson would go on to finish third in Iowa in the 2008 caucuses, but had it not been for King, Thompson would have surely finished behind John McCain, who finished a close fourth. Part of King’s calculus that year was to halt McCain’s comeback, and keeping him out of the top three in Iowa was an accomplishment, but McCain was still able to overpower the field in New Hampshire.
The Cruz campaign should know how to best utilize King. Cruz’s Iowa campaign manager is Bryan English, who was a congressional staffer for King in Iowa in 2008. Trust me, King and Cruz are going to be attached at the hip when the candidate is in Iowa. One knock on Cruz is that he doesn’t meet people all that well, so having someone like King who has spent years getting to know the GOP faithful from every corner of the state should help Cruz over come one of his main weaknesses.
What does this tell us about King?
Iowa activists are often branded by who they support in presidential campaigns. For example, I’ll probably be a “Forbes guy” until the day I die or choose to work for another presidential candidate. This is only the second time that King, as a member of Congress, has endorsed a presidential candidate in a contested caucus campaign. It’s important to note that in endorsing Thompson and Cruz, King has forgone endorsing some of the more socially conservative candidates and instead backed two 10th Amendment state rights advocates.
King’s endorsements also give us an indication of how he ranks the importance of issues. In the past, two factors – a candidate’s position on immigration policy and their ability to win the Republican nomination for president – have weighed heavily on King’s decision-making process. In recent cycles, King has opted not endorse his personal friends and colleagues Tom Tancredo and Michele Bachmann, despite being in lock-step with them on most issues.
Even though a candidate like Mike Huckabee has been the only presidential candidate in history to champion the FairTAX, a proposal King passionately supports, Huckabee has never really been under consideration for getting King’s support. King also lines up with Rick Santorum on virtually every issue, yet King refused to endorse Santorum’s candidacy because he valued the friendships of the other candidates in the race in 2012.
King is at odds with Cruz at least two critical issues.
King’s number one issue is immigration, and he takes a very strict conservative approach to the issue. In fact, last week, King described amnesty to Fox News contributor Brit Hume saying, “Any reduced penalty not provided by current law is amnesty whether it’s a million dollar fine or a dollar.” This puts King at odds with Cruz’s 2013 amendment to the Gang of Eight bill because, while it eliminated a pathway to citizenship, it still granted undocumented immigrants RPI (Registered Provisional Immigrant) status, and they would eventually be eligible for LPR (Lawful Permanent Resident) status under Cruz’s proposal.
At his press conference in Des Moines on Monday morning, TheIowaRepublican.com pressed King on this issue. King said that he was aware of Cruz’s amendment while it happening and that he didn’t have any problem with it. King believes Cruz’s motives where to “pry out” the main priorities of the Gang of Eight bill, namely the pathway to citizenship.
King also noted that he was pleased with the immigration proposal the Cruz campaign released last week after coming under fire for the amendment he proposed to the Gang of Eight bill back in 2013. When TheIowaRepublican.com pointed out that Cruz’s proposal doesn’t mention anything about what he would do with the undocumented immigrants already in the country, King said he is confident that he and Cruz are on the same page when it comes to amnesty.
King is clearly giving Cruz the benefit of the doubt, because if you go back and watch or read how Cruz advocated for his amendment, it’s pretty clear to see that instead of inserting a poison pill to derail the bill, it sure looked like he was attempting to find a compromise solution.
Two weeks later, King endorsed a candidate who is probably the biggest threat to the RFS of all the candidates, Republican or Democrat, running for president. There is little doubt, that if Cruz is president, there will not be a continuation of the RFS, and he probably would end it before it’s set to expire like the Obama administration has attempted to do in recent years.
King’s all in for Cruz, but he better hope Cruz returns the favor.
King has benefited greatly from all the candidates who have sought his endorsement for the past eight years. When he calls, candidates agree to headline fundraising events or participate in whatever event King is involved in. Doing so is mutually beneficial, but it’s not just the conservative candidates that have come to King’s aide.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie traveled to Iowa to headline an early fundraising event when King was being challenged by former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack for his Fourth District Congressional Seat. Donald Trump also headlined an event for King before his 2014 re-election, another campaign where King was being outspent by his Democrat opponent.
King represents the most Republican-leaning district in the state, and he has easily withstood the Democrats’ general election challenges in recent years, but King doesn’t make things easy for himself. As of September 30th, King had just $128,000 in the bank, and that’s after raising $123,000 for the quarter. King’s endorsement of Cruz seems like a no-brainer if you over-look Cruz’s immigration position in 2013 and his position on the RFS, but when King starts looking for some financial assistance, his Rolodex just shrunk exponentially.
The Republican Party of Iowa is mourning the loss of Jerry Tweeten, a long-time activist who died Tuesday morning after succumbing to injuries sustained during a fall.
Tweeten was the chairman of the Winnebago County Republican Party and a regular at party functions. He was a hard working activist and a beloved member of his community.
“Jerry was a dedicated member of his family, his community, and the Republican Party. He never sought the spotlight, but it often found him as people running for office — from the local courthouse to the White House — would seek his endorsement and support,” Co-Chair Cody Hoefert said. “The Republican Party of Iowa lost a friend today, and we dearly miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”
U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley provided the following statement to TheIowaRepublican.com, “Barbara and I join so many others in expressing sympathy to the family of Jerry Tweeten. Jerry was our friend over a long period of time. He was a leader and a dedicated, loyal, and very hard worker. Jerry was a living testament to the truth about how one person can make a big difference. We will pray for his family and know that Jerry will be dearly missed.”
Those wishing to help Jerry’s family deal with medical costs can make a donation by visiting their Go Fund Me page here.
Jerry’s funeral will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 9, at the First Baptist Church, 18508 E Highway 9, Forest City, IA.
While presidential politics has captivated political onlookers in Iowa this spring, the campaign in Iowa’s First Congressional District also got off to a quick start. Not only have three Democrats already launched their 2016 congressional campaigns, but two of them have already raised big bucks in the first quarter of 2015.
Monica Vernon, a Democrat City Council member from Cedar Rapids, announced her candidacy in January. Vernon failed to capture the Democratic nomination for Congress in the First District in 2014, but was selected by Jack Hatch to be his Lt. Governor nominee for his race for Governor. Despite her inability to win the Democrat nomination in 2014, Vernon proved that she was an astute fundraiser. Vernon raised nearly $800,000 for her congressional primary campaign but finished second with only 23 percent of the vote. Vernon spent $130 per vote in her failed congressional campaign in 2014.
Vernon raised $190,513.30 in the first quarter of 2015 and loaned her campaign another $110,000. Vernon has $289,976.43 cash-on-hand for her 2016 congressional campaign. Ravi Patel, an entrepreneur who moved from the Second Congressional District to the First District in order to run against Blum, raised a stunning $539,658.05 in the first three months of 2015 and has $498,140.83 in the bank.
Patel’s initial fundraising number is even more staggering since it doesn’t include any loans from the candidate himself. To put Patel’s fundraising haul in perspective, it is more than double what Democrat Swati Dandekar raised in her initial fundraising period in 2014 in the First District race. In fact, Patel’s $539,658 even dwarfs the nearly $400,000 that Mark Jacobs raised during his initial fundraising quarter in the 2014 Republican U.S. Senate primary not counting the personal money Jacobs put in the race. Like Jacobs, most of the money Patel raised is from outside of the state.
The third Democrat candidate, Gary Kroeger, a former cast member of Saturday Night Live who lives in Cedar Falls, announced his candidacy earlier this month and thus does not have to file a fundraising disclosure until June.
The eventual Democrat nominee will face first-term Republican Congressman Rod Blum in the general election. Blum raised $119,543.04 in his initial fundraising period as an incumbent. The total includes $4,000 from former Congressman Tom Latham’s leadership PAC, $5,000 from Senator Joni Ernst’s leadership PAC, and $5,000 from Jobs Growth, and Freedom PAC, Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s leadership PAC. Blum also received $1,500 from Congressman Daniel Webster, who he cast his vote in favor of as Speaker of the House instead of John Boehner.
It’s clear that Blum understands that his re-election is not a given. In the first quarter of 2015, Blum, a Dubuque businessman, loaned his campaign $500,000. At the end of March, Blum reported having $644,373.01 in his campaign account. Blum also loaned his campaign $100,000 last September, and thus now has personal debt of $600,000 by his congressional campaign.
Blum won his congressional seat in 2014 by defeating State Representative Pat Murphy by 6,617 votes. Congressman Bruce Braley, who ran for the open U.S. Senate seat in 2014 and lost to Joni Ernst by 94,000 votes, previously held the seat. Iowa’s First Congressional District has a Democrat registered voter advantage. As of April, there are 21,245 more registered Democrat voters than registered Republicans in this district. The Democrat advantage in the First is confined to just three counties – Black Hawk, Dubuque, and Linn. In 2014, In 2012, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by 54,832 votes in the First Congressional District.
Blum’s ability to front his re-election campaign significant funds means that his 2016 campaign will be a top-notch operation. Senator Chuck Grassley, who is up for re-election in 2016, should also provide Blum some political cover even in a presidential cycle. Grassley’s polling numbers are stellar, and the First Congressional District contains Grassley’s home turf.
Even though the money being raised by Vernon and Patel is impressive, a competitive Democrat primary could once again help Blum. Democrats in 2014 raised scads of money in the primary, but they had to spend every dime they raised. Furthermore, the 2014 Democrat nominee wasn’t the candidate who ran the best campaign or had the most money. Pat Murphy won the Democrat primary because he was the most liberal candidate and had the closest relationship to organized labor.
The First District race will likely be one of the top targets for the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016. Watching to see what the unions and Democrat leaders do in this primary will be interesting. Blum will have his work cut out for him, but he’s proven to be an excellent campaigner and his financial commitment to his re-election campaign already indicates that he’s taking it seriously.
A quick look at the other incumbent’s financial reports.
Congressman Dave Loebsack Iowa’s Second Congressional District $197,025.50 raised.
$139,025.00 was from Political Action Committees.
$168,811.55 cash on hand.
Note: Loebsack is never flashy in the fundraising department, but slow and steady will win you a lot of races.
Congressman David Young Iowa’s Third Congressional District $333,290.00 raised.
$106,890.00 was from Political Action Committees.
$351,623.61 cash on hand.
Note: Young still owes himself $250,000 from his 2014 campaign. Young’s fundraising ability as an incumbent should not come as a surprise to anyone. The biggest obstacle for Young was getting elected, I actually think he will be very difficult to unseat. That goes for primary and general elections.
Congressman Steve King Iowa’s Forth Congressional District $45,293.41 raised.
$9,000 was from Political Action Committees.
$95,791.33 cash on hand.
Note: For as much attention as King warrants in advance of the caucuses, he has yet to find a way to help himself raise money for his campaign committee. King received massive amounts of attention for his January presidential event, the Iowa Freedom Summit, yet it didn’t really benefit him personally. Making things even worse is King’s high burn rate. It’s a good thing that King represents the most conservative District in the state.
If you thought the five-way Democrat primary in the 1st Congressional District in 2014 was a little bit unruly, it appears that 2016 may bring out an even larger field of candidates. Monica Vernon, who finished in second place in the 2014 Democrat primary and who later joined Jack Hatch as his Lt. Governor candidate, is already formally in the race.
On Thursday, the Des Moines Register reported that former Democrat Governor Chet Culver is thinking about moving to the district to run for Congress. The Waterloo Courier reported on Wednesday that Gary Kroeger, a former cast member of Saturday Night Live, is also considering a run against Blum as a Democrat.
All of the early speculation is further proof that Democrats see Blum as a vulnerable first-term opponent in 2016. Blum is vulnerable because of the District he represents, not because he’s an inadequate politician. As I outlined a couple weeks ago, the First Congressional Seat will be the top target for Democrats across the county. Notice I wrote, “the top target,” not one of the top targets.
There are currently 22,233 more registered Democrats in Iowa’s First Congressional District than registered Republicans. Mitt Romney lost the First Congressional District by a staggering 54,832 votes in 2012. Those two facts are why Democrats like Culver are looking to parachute into the District and run against Blum. Those two facts are also why Vernon is already an official candidate, and more Democrats are soon to follow.
Not all is lost for Republicans, however. Blum proved to be a good campaigner and an excellent candidate in 2014. Being an incumbent running for re-election will only make him more formidable in the fall of 2016. Blum will also be provided some political cover from Senator Chuck Grassley, who will be running for re-election in 2016.
Hear me out, do not under-estimate how significant it is to have Grassley on the ballot in 2016. The entire 2014 U.S. Senate race had more to do with Chuck Grassley than it did Joni Ernst and Bruce Braley. The 2014 campaign has basically made Grassley untouchable. How on earth can a Democrat attack Grassley when we just got done having a campaign that was decided on the fact that Braley said some insulting things about Grassley at a private fundraiser? Grassley’s sway in the 2016 campaign will especially aide Blum because the First Congressional District includes much of Grassley’s home turf.
A large, crowded Democrat primary will also benefit Blum, just like it did in 2014. Democrats in 2014 nominated Pat Murphy in the First District in large part because he was the most liberal candidate running. Murphy clobbered the field despite being massively outspent by everyone else. Murphy spent just over $1.4 million on his entire primary and general election campaign. Vernon and Swati Dandekar combined to spend more than that on their primary campaigns.
Murphy’s 2014 primary showed us that there isn’t much of an appetite for a centrist Democrat. So if Culver, Vernon, or the dude from SNL are serious about winning the nomination in 2016, they are going to be forced to embrace liberal positions that are unpopular to general election voters. A presidential campaign should help them, but don’t count on an Obama-style turnout to automatically happen, especially if Hillary Clinton is the Democrat nominee.
Blum has his work cut out for him, but the news of all these Democrats taking aim at his seat in Congress is actually good news for Republicans.
Congressman Steve King told Scott Conroy of Real Clear Politics that it would be “Good for the country” if Mitt Romney decides to run for president for a third time. That seems odd coming from the same guy who vehemently opposed John Boehner for Speaker. I think it’s safe to say that politically, Boehner and Romney agree on more than they disagree. King voted for Rep. Daniel Webster for Speaker.
Speaking of Rep. Daniel Webster, did you know that he only received a 56 percent grade from the Heritage Foundation for his votes in the last session of congress?
I think Bruce Rastetter’s Iowa Ag Summit is exactly the type of political event that Iowa could do more of in the future. Agriculture plays a vital role in the Iowa economy, which impacts all of us. I’m looking forward to hearing what the candidates have to say when they sit down for a 20-minute conversation about the subject. This event is also unique because it has a chance to be bi-partisan event. There is no reason why Democrats interested in running for President shouldn’t attend the event.
I need to make a confession, I went to see American Sniper instead of watching the State of the Union address on Tuesday night. I was pleased that when I walked into the house Senator Ernst had not yet given her remarks. American Sniper was difficult to watch at times, but an excellent movie. I was glad I went.
You might want to bring a seat cushion to the Iowa Freedom Summit tomorrow. Nothing like a jam-packed eight-hour day of political speeches. I’m curious to see how the day flows. I hope for everyone’s sake it’s a good show. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to pack 23 speakers into eight hours. Events should be built with the attendee in mind, not the speakers.
I misspelled the word “border” this week. It was embarrassing. I’m actually really sensitive to that kind of thing because I was a terrible English student in high school. If you need proof, you can pull my transcripts and see that I failed ninth grade English (talk about embarrassing) and chose not to take an English class my senior year of high school.
Needless to say, I’ve come a long way, and I have a loving spouse that is willing to look over my work to make sure I don’t look like an idiot. She’s been under the weather this week, otherwise I’m sure she would have caught it.
I would highly recommend that you tune into IPTV’s Iowa Press this week. Dan Balz, chief correspondent for The Washington Post; Roger Simon, chief political columnist for Politico; and John Dickerson, CBS political director and political correspondent for Slate.com are the special guests.
I think all three are great reporters and do good work. Simon made my life a living hell for a week when he penned a satirical article entitled “Paul Ryan vs. The Stench.” The “Stench” the article refers to came out of an interview I did with the New York Times about the possibility of Paul Ryan running for president in 2016.
How funny is it now that Mitt Romney himself is actually considering running for a third time.
This program will be broadcast Friday, January 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, January 25 at noon on IPTV. The program will also be broadcast on IPTV WORLD (.3) Saturday, January 24 at 8:30 a.m. Iowa Presswill be available online beginning Friday afternoon at Iptv.org.
Speaking of Mitt Romney, there apparently isn’t too much stench, especially in New Hampshire where a new poll shows him CRUSHING his Republican competition. A new Suffolk poll has Romney leading with 24 percent followed by Governor Chris Christie with just nine percent.
If Romney owns New Hampshire, and I think he does, then Iowa becomes absolutely critical for the rest of the field. If you think that Romney isn’t in a strong position in the 2016 race, you are only fooling yourself.