Yepsen on Politics is a weekly Q&A with Iowa Press producers and David Yepsen, host of IPTV’s Iowa Press. This week we cover Rep. Steve King's recent appearance on the program.
IS KING'S CONCERN FOR TRUMP ADMINISTRATION A CONSERVATIVE BELLWEATHER?
Andrew Batt, IPTV Senior Producer: Rep. Steve King was our guest this week on Iowa Press and he voiced some concern that President Trump is in danger of losing his base. Is King a canary in the conservative coal mine?
David Yepsen, Host of Iowa Press: There is anecdotal evidence that some of Trump's voters are having questions but it doesn't seem to be very widespread. It's still a new administration that is having some trouble getting settled. That happens in all new administrations, but Trump’s change of heart on some issues has raised conservative eyebrows.
King indicated conservatives are most concerned about Trump getting wobbly on immigration issues and, so far, he didn't think that was happening. I doubt King will ever be one to raise a lot of concerns publicly because he has such good access inside this administration. Having a public snit to anything Trump's doing risks burning his bridges to the White House and with Trump. King's also close to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The White House is likely to treat King well because he's a key player in Iowa. The 2020 contest is likely to begin in Iowa and if some Republican wants to cause trouble for Trump, they'll have to come through Iowa to do it. Going back to Jimmy Carter, presidents have always kept Iowa fences mended to head off embarrassing caucus challenges to another party nomination.
KING'S GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IS BLOCKING LEGISLATION?
Batt: Rep. King made it clear he believes his greatest accomplishments in Congress have been stopping legislation he deemed liberal or a “wrong direction” for the country. In your time in Iowa politics, have any other Iowa politicians advertised that tactic as their greatest accomplishment? What does it say about King's approach to governing?
Yepsen: Conservatives oppose activist governments doing things. Most conservatives think stopping new programs and new initiatives is a good idea, not a bad idea. That is why you'll hear them telling reporters not to measure their success by what they passed but by what they killed off too.
Still, a member of the U.S. House needs to be taking care of parochial needs and for King that means taking care of production agriculture's needs when the next farm bill is drafted. Most members of Congress say they "oppose pork" but they sure to like to "bring home the bacon" when it comes to federal projects - like federal money for highway construction.
A PULITZER IN THE 4TH DISTRICT....WHAT DOES IS MEAN FOR IOWA?
Batt: Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times, a town in Rep. King's 4th Congressional District, won a Pulitzer this past week for editorial writing. What does that mean for journalism and Iowa?
Yepsen: It's good to see local journalists get some credit for the work they do on local issues. The Pulitzer committee also gave an award to a reporter from the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia for reporting on the opioid epidemic in that state. Giving awards to local journalists like them inspires other local reporters to do some digging.
BONUS QUESTION: IS KING RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION AGAIN?
Batt: Does it seem like Rep. King will run again for Congress?
Yepsen: King is running for re-election. He's often made noise about running for statewide office like governor and U.S. Senator. That always has Democrats and progressives hoping he makes their day by doing so. They might be able to beat him in a statewide race. Still, that posturing always gets King a lot of free publicity.
In the end, King understands he has one of safest seats in Congress and always runs for re-election. He's getting some seniority, and has good access to the White House now and to conservative media. He's in a position to have more impact on public policy now than ever in his career.