While polling in the Iowa Fourth District Republican primary was rather sparse, everyone expected this race to be fairly tight. But in the end, it wasn’t really all that close and Steve King will be leaving Congress after serving nine consecutive terms. King wound up losing to state Senator Randy Feenstra last night by around ten points in a four-person race. While there were a number of factors in play, King had alienated a lot of his traditional supporters in recent years. His opponent had also drawn the support of a number of popular conservative commentators and social media influencers such as Ben Shapiro. Of course, the turnout was so low that, in the end, this race probably just came down to a question of which candidate could generate enough enthusiasm to drive people to the polls in the middle of a pandemic and massive civil unrest. (NBC News)
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has a long history of racist and outrageous remarks, lost his long-held House seat in a Republican primary on Tuesday, NBC News projected.
With 98 percent of the vote counted, King trailed his main rival, state Sen. Randy Feenstra, by 7,866 votes, or 45.7 percent to 35.9 percent. Three other GOP candidates were each in single digits.
The Republican primary challenge, the fiercest since King was first elected to Congress in 2002, came after he was stripped of his committee assignments in the House last year because of comments to The New York Times about white nationalism.
So was King really given the boot because of his widely publicized comments where he pondered when white nationalism, white supremacy and western civilization became offensive terms? It probably didn’t help, but the district was already in a bit of turmoil before then. Keep in mind that after initially winning his seat in 2002 (when he was in the Fifth District), Steve King won seven elections in a row where he almost always took at least 60% of the vote in a solidly red part of the state. But in 2017 that seemed to begin to change.
In the 2018 election, King won his primary decisively with almost 75% of the vote, but he then went on to barely eke out a victory over Democrat J. D. Scholten, 50-47. This came as something of a surprise considering that most of the late polling in that race showed King up by anywhere from five to nine points. So was that a sign of a shift in the district’s demographics or just a lack of enthusiasm for King? One good indicator of enthusiasm is the candidate’s ability to fundraise. Over the course of the past year, Feenstra outraised King massively, having a four to one advantage in cash on hand during the last reporting period. Will that level of enthusiasm carry over to the general election? That’s the question that Feenstra will be looking to answer in November.
For his part, Randy Feenstra shouldn’t be too offputting to King’s traditional supporters. He’s 100% pro-life, pro-business and pro-Second Amendment. He garnered the support of the state GOP as well as the endorsements of the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Right to Life Committee. In other words, he checks all the right boxes without coming with the media baggage that Steve King has been attracting for some time.
You probably recall that King was stripped of all of his committee posts by the House GOP last year because of his comments about white nationalism. That severely diluted his power and influence in the House, a fact that Feenstra was seeking to use to his own advantage during the primary. And let’s not forget that this election was being held in the middle of massive unrest dealing with the subject of racism. With King having been branded as a racist in both local and national media for months on end, this was probably just about the worst climate for him to mount a campaign in.
Steve King is already in his seventies and I wouldn’t be surprised if he just hangs it up after leaving office. Feenstra is 51 and will likely have many years of service left if he can maintain a hold on his district’s seat for a while. And given the way the fall elections are shaping up, the GOP is going to need every district they can cobble together.