The strongest sign that the House is about to be overtaken by a wave comes when seats are in play that shouldn’t even be on the board. We’re seeing that play out in real time in one of the reddest pieces of real estate in the country–Iowa’s 4th district, in the mostly rural northwest. That district’s Republican incumbent, Steve King, has spent most of the fall in the hot lights over his white nationalist sympathies.
King is seeking his ninth term representing this district, which stretches from Sioux City through Ames–home of Iowa State University–to Mason City. All but one of his previous eight campaigns have been relative snoozers. But earlier this fall, word got out that he’d given an interview to a far-right Austrian Website in which he held forth about whites being “replaced” by immigrants from non-white countries. If that sounds familiar, it’s the idea that drives one of the white nationalist crowd’s favorite chants–“You will not replace us!” He also claimed that liberal megadonor George Soros is funding this effort.
King had already been notorious for his ties to the European far right. But in a case of exceptionally bad timing, the American press learned of King’s Austrian interview just weeks before eleven people were gunned down at a Pittsburgh synagogue–the worst attack on the Jewish community in American history. Since then, King has lost the support of dozens of longstanding donors, such as Land O’Lakes and Purina.
You’d think this wouldn’t matter in a district with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+11, and that Donald Trump won by a punishing 61-34 margin over Hillary Clinton. But his Democratic challenger, former baseball player J. D. Scholten, is giving King a run for his money. Scholten has blasted King for not tending to the needs of his mostly rural district. Scholten has also done something King hasn’t done much of lately–going out and talking to the people of this vast 39-county district.
It’s paying off in a big way. Scholten has flat-out stomped King in fundraising, raising over $1.68 million–more than double King’s total. King’s most likely lifeline got severed last Monday when the National Republican Congressional Committee announced it would not lift a finger to help him.
Indeed, King has so little money that he has only run one ad–and it was a recycled one, according to Dave Wasserman of Cook Political Report.
King got even more bad news this weekend when two polls found the race essentially tied. First, on Saturday, The Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll, long the gold standard for polling in Iowa, found King with only a four-point lead–well within the 6.6 percent margin of error. Then on Sunday, The New York Times’ Upshot unit finished a live poll that showed King only up 47-42 over Scholten–right at the five percent margin of error.
In light of this, King did something on Sunday night that can only be described as an act of desperation. He uploaded a video in which he told an unseen audience that he wasn’t really a white nationalist.
King claimed that when he went on the trip to Europe during which he chatted with that far-right newspaper, he visited the sites of Auschwitz and Birkenau, as well as several Holocaust museums. One of the people who accompanied him was a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor. King claimed that visiting the sites of “industrialized slaughter” was an experience well beyond what you read about in the history books and newspapers.
Predictably, the right-wing press ate it up. Gateway Pundit, for instance, crowed that this was proof King was not really a bigot.
Well, Steve, you’ll have to pardon us if we don’t believe you. While that Austrian interview would have been enough reason to doubt your sincerity, it wasn’t the first time that you essentially yelled, “You will not replace us!” You have also said that civilization can’t be restored with “somebody else’s babies.” And you doubled down on that line when you talked with Breitbart. Let’s jog your memory, shall we?
But what’s really telling about this video is that it was a set piece–without a live audience. Scholten played up that contrast while finishing the campaign on yet another whirlwind tour of the district.
So let’s see. Who would you rather have as your congressman? A guy who spends his time doing canned videos to defend himself, or a guy who actually gets out and talks to the people he represents? If I were in northwest Iowa, I’d want the latter–regardless of party label.
After 16 years, the people of this district deserve better than a congressman who will shame them by spewing white nationalist bile at every turn. And with J. D. Scholten, they’ll get better.
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