Iowa Rep. Steve King endorses Ted Cruz: "A candidate whom God will use to restore the soul of America"

This makes two major endorsements for Cruz in Iowa, the first being talk-radio host Steve Deace back in August. Probably the biggest among Iowa social cons is Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Family Leader, which is hosting its presidential forum this Friday. Vander Plaats endorsed Huckabee in 2008 and Huckabee won the caucuses; he endorsed Santorum in 2012 and Santorum won that year. (King, by contrast, endorsed Fred Thompson in 2008 and made no endorsement in 2012.) Vander Plaats, discussing the Christian conservative vote, also told NRO last month, “Our destruction in the past has been division — we divide ourselves among a lot of candidates.” If he’s serious about that, aligning with Deace and King to back Cruz is the obvious move now. And if he does, that cinches Iowa for Cruz.

Or so Cruz fans tell me. The lesson of Trumpmania, universally accepted by now, is that the traditional rules of primaries don’t seem to apply this year. Trump was supposed to have gaffed his way out of the race 12 different times by now. Ben Carson was supposed to have faded ages ago, overshadowed by the GOP’s deep field of professional pols. You’d be a fool to bet against Cruz in Iowa with all of these big names coming out for him, but anyone who bet big early on the conventional wisdom — Jeb is the man to beat, Trump is a sideshow, Walker will contend for the nomination to the bitter end — went bust long ago.

“I believe Ted Cruz is the candidate that’s the answer to my prayers,” King said. “A candidate whom God will use to restore the soul of America.”…

King, an immigration hardliner who did not endorse in 2012, has been heavily courted this cycle by candidates vying to consolidate the conservative base. Recently, for example, he embarked on a pheasant hunt, an annual tradition, with candidates including Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

But he has long been thought to favor Cruz. His son is involved in a super PAC that backs the senator, and the two have appeared together frequently at events in Iowa.

This was an easy call for King and not just because his son works for the Super PAC. Where else was he going to go, realistically? Huckabee and Santorum are also-rans this time. Rubio’s way too far towards the center on immigration. Despite his formidable polling, no one thinks Republican voters are going to go with Ben Carson as their nominee given all of the other options. If you want a border-hawk evangelical who can actually win, Cruz is a no-brainer. The only surprise about the endorsement is the timing. When King backed Fred Thompson in 2007, he made the announcement just 17 days before the caucuses were held. Logically, if you’re rolling out a big endorsement, you want to do it close to the caucuses to maximize the impact on voters. Why, then, is Team Cruz rolling King out now, two and half months before caucus night? The answer is … this, no? Ever since Cruz launched his amnesty attacks on Rubio, he’s been scrambling to his right to try to counter Rubio’s retort that the two aren’t much different on immigration. That’s why he rolled out that new immigration plan on Friday calling for a six-month suspension of H-1B visas and warning that even legal immigration might need to be limited depending on the unemployment rate. Now he’s bringing out King, one of the most outspoken border hawks in Congress, to give him further cred on the subject. If he’s got Jeff Sessions lined up for an endorsement too, you might be seeing that sooner than expected thanks to Rubio’s counteroffensive as well.

Just one question for Steve King: Did, er, Cruz happen to tell you yet what he plans to do with the 11 million illegals who are already here? A lot of inquiring minds would like to know. In fact, given what a stalwart border hawk King is, I assume King would like to know more than most. Did he ask Cruz for specifics before endorsing him? Did Cruz give him those specifics? If so, can he give them to us? I’d sure hate to think Steve King’s highly coveted endorsement might end up being used as a way to dodge hugely consequential questions about legalization. (E.g., “You want answers? Steve King is backing us. Isn’t that good enough?”)

in lieu of an exit question, here’s Jeb Bush supporter Ana Navarro warning Cruz that he’s going to be attacked for this in the general, as if he wasn’t going to be attacked as “anti-Latino” by Hillary anyway: