Kingmaker, That's You

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 25 2011 10:31 AM

Kingmaker, That's You

Jonathan Martin mentioned an important fact in his version of the Michele Bachmann Could Matter story:

Bachmann is very close to [Steve] King, who represents the conservative western half of the state, and has made plain he wants to be a kingmaker this election cycle. He has said that he regrets waiting so late to endorse in the last campaign – he didn’t get behind Fred Thompson until December 2007 – and his early backing of Bachmann would offer her an important ally going into the August state GOP straw poll.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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Let's revisit the 2007 King endorsement, because it was weird. He gave it to Thompson at a news conference without giving the candidate a heads up. In fact, representatives from the Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee campaigns were both at the event, because they were both ready to receive it. (There was no chance of King endorsing another candidate because the three other frontrunners -- Rudy, Huckabee, and McCain -- were seen as squishes on illegal immigration.)
 
When he endorsed Thompson, King was a long ways away from becoming the Tea Party star of 2009-present; he was just the Republican congressman who represented the most conservative part of the state. Now, he's powerful enough to host a one-day conference and get five or six potential candidates (it's six if you count John Bolton) to show up, and to get Jim DeMint to close out the session and take photos with anyone who pays $1000 for a co-sponsorship. Seriously, look at the guest list:
 
Newt Gingrich
Haley Barbour
Michele Bachmann
Rick Santorum
Herman Cain
John Bolton
Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn
Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce, of "you're not a citizen of the United States, you're a citizen of the sovereign state" fame
 
His endorsement is going to matter, and if Bachmann stays in the race it's absolutely going to her.
 
(Photo credit: Rep. Steve King's Flickr feed.)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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