Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), struggling to fend off a strong primary challenge, claimed this week that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gave his “word” that he would push to restore the committee assignments that were taken away last year after King openly questioned whether the term “white supremacist” was offensive.
This has roiled House Republicans. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), a member of the powerful steering committee that controls committee assignments, said Wednesday that such an effort would meet overwhelming resistance. “I will fight with every fiber of my being to make sure he does not get back on committees,” Stivers said in an interview.
Scott Reed, the senior political strategist at the Chamber, praised Feenstra’s work in the Iowa state legislature to enact tax cuts and his emphasis on governing. “He’s one of us,” said Reed.
He and other national Republicans fear that King, if he prevails in the primary, would lose in the general election to Democratic candidate J.D. Scholten, who came within 3 percentage points in 2018 and has been a fundraising powerhouse as he pursues a rematch.
Keeping the Senate in Republican hands is the Chamber’s top political priority in the 2020 elections, and Reed also said he’s worried that King being on the ticket could jeopardize GOP Sen. Joni Ernst’s bid for a second term. “We’re concerned about Ernst’s reelection. She needs to run up big numbers in rural Iowa. We think King would be an albatross,” Reed said.
Feenstra received endorsements last week from the Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Right to Life Committee, which cited his efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in the state legislature. Former Iowa governor Terry Branstad (R), who is now U.S. ambassador to China, has also backed Feenstra over King and cut him a check.
The Feenstra campaign says its internal polling shows King leading 39 percent to 36 percent, which is within the margin of error. The Chamber’s private polling, which helped shape its messaging, found Feenstra trailing overall but within striking distance – and tied among voters who said they had knowledge of both candidates.
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