When Cruz came to Washington in January 2013, he and King were unacquainted. Quickly, however, they become steadfast allies and regular collaborators. Their staffs are in constant communication. They meet regularly to discuss strategy and brief one another on activity in their respective chambers. They once shared a five-hour steak dinner, discussing Constitutional restraint well after the lights had been shut off at the Capital Grille. And they have spent significant time together in Iowa, home to the first presidential nominating contest in 2016—a state where King’s blessing could legitimize Cruz’s run for the White House.

“He fits this thing very well,” King said of Cruz’s presidential aspirations.

King said in an interview he hasn’t decided whether to endorse in 2016. But those close to the congressman suggest that after sitting out the 2012 cycle, he’s itching to influence the upcoming presidential campaign.

“He’s had close friends run for president before—Duncan Hunter and Michele Bachmann—and chose not to endorse them when they ran,” said Steve Deace, an Iowa radio host and conservative activist who has known King for years. “If you can’t show you’re going to be a viable candidate, he will not put his political capital behind you.”