DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Rep. Steve King is fighting for his political life — but not because he’s compared immigrants crossing the border illegally to cattle.
His Republican opponents in next week’s primary aren’t raking him over the coals for making light of rape and incest. His chief rival’s ads don’t mention the time he wondered when the term “white supremacist” became offensive.
Instead, the nine-term congressman known for his nativist politics is fighting to prove he can still deliver for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District. Since Republican leaders stripped him of his committee assignments, in a rare punishment, King has been dogged by questions over whether he’s lost all effectiveness. Some longtime supporters are turning away, not because of his incendiary remarks but because they think he can no longer do the job.
“We all want to feel that we’re being represented in Washington, D.C., that we have a voice,” said Iowa state Sen. Annette Sweeney, a former King supporter.
Establishment Republicans in Iowa and Washington, some of whom share King’s policy views and have long tolerated his provocative remarks, have largely abandoned the congressman, throwing their weight behind Randy Feenstra, a conservative state senator.
That sets up the June 2 primary, a five-way fight in a GOP-heavy district, as a test of whether the establishment can effectively police the party and distance itself from racist and far-right voices who critics say have been amplified in recent years.
But Republican activists in King’s district, a sprawling swath of corn, soybeans and towering wind turbines, haven’t been quick to accept the influence from outsiders.
“He’s not what he’s portrayed to be by certain media outlets,” said Barb Clayton, a leading GOP activist in the district. Clayton says she “respects” King and believes his comments about white supremacy were taken out of context.
Still, she’s backing one of his four opponents, though she won’t say whom, because she’s worried King’s diminished influence would cost him in November.
“My primary issue is being able to hold the seat. It makes it more difficult to do that when he’s lost his committees,” she said.
Sweeney, who has endorsed Feenstra, offered only glancing criticism of King.
“His comments at times were just off the cuff,” she said. “Sometimes some of them might have been him trying to be funny or cute, though some weren’t. In fact, some were repulsive.”
Still, Sweeney hosted two fundraisers at her home for King in 2014, when he faced what was expected to be a competitive challenge from former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack, a Democrat. King won decisively.
By then, King had a reputation for controversial statements about race, immigration and religion.
In 2006, King proposed electrifying the U.S.-Mexico border fencing to curb illegal border crossings, saying, “We do that with livestock all the time.”
In 2013, he said for every one well-intended “Dreamer,” immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, 100 more “weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes” from hauling drugs across the desert.
In recent years, King received scrutiny for his overtures to foreign, right-wing extremists. The outreach prompted the House campaign committee to pull its financial backing in 2018. King was stripped of his membership on the House judiciary and agriculture committees the following January after he was quoted in the New York Times seeming to defend white nationalism.
The punishment sidelined King from defending President Donald Trump during the impeachment hearings, a spotlight King would have relished. It also silenced him on agriculture policy, a blow in a district that ranks second nationally in agricultural production, according to federal statistics.
But it hasn’t muted King. He’s continued to defend his hard-right abortion stance with provocative comments. Asked in August about his opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest, he wondered whether there would be “any population of the world left” if not for births stemming from rape and incest.
Feenstra has called the comments “bizarre” but hasn’t made them the focus of his critique of King. Instead, the 51-year-old former candy company executive promotes his work in the statehouse on big issues such as tax cut legislation and attacks King for a lack of sway on farming and agribusiness issues.
“Steve King, the congressman who couldn’t,” the narrator says in Feenstra’s television ads. “Steve King couldn’t protect our farmers and couldn’t protect President Trump from impeachment.”
It’s a tack Iowa Republicans say is working, in part because it doesn’t shame Iowans who have long defended King.
“You move away from the argument that he’s an embarrassment and into an argument of effectiveness — when you get into that zone, people say this matters,” said Iowa Republican strategist John Stineman, who’s unaffiliated with any campaign in the race.
King argues that establishment Republicans have targeted him for being such an effective defender of conservative causes.
“It’s no single thing,” King said. “But it gets back to their argument that this is part of a pattern with me they are uncomfortable with.”
But Feenstra’s focus on King’s diminished role also appears to have hit a nerve. In recent candidate forums, King started telling voters he has struck a deal with House leaders to resume his committee posts if he wins reelection.
King told The Associated Press that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he would vouch for him when King appeals to his GOP colleagues for reinstatement.
McCarthy has dismissed King’s claim.
“Congressman King’s comments cannot be exonerated, and I never said that,” McCarthy told reporters last week. “He’ll have the opportunity to make his case, talking to the members of the Steering Committee. I think he’ll get the same answer that he got before.”
If King pulls out a primary win, McCarthy could have another headache on his hands. Some fear mainstream Republicans might leave the ballot empty rather than vote for King, allowing Democrat J.D. Scholten, who lost by 2 percentage points in 2018, to win.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the GOP’s congressional campaign arm, declined Friday to say whether it would support King in November or opt for a second time to withhold support.
Associated Press writer Alan Fram in Washington contributed to this report.
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Trump fights for military vote despite early missteps
The Trump campaign is counting on an aggressive ground game to help win over active-duty troops and veterans during the home stretch of the White House race, but with little room for error, Republican insiders fear a series of missteps and miscalculations may swing the highly coveted and Republican-leaning demographic toward Democratic rival Joseph R.…
The Trump campaign is counting on an aggressive ground game to help win over active-duty troops and veterans during the home stretch of the White House race, but with little room for error, Republican insiders fear a series of missteps and miscalculations may swing the highly coveted and Republican-leaning demographic toward Democratic rival Joseph R. Biden.
The former vice president has scored surprisingly well in surveys of U.S. troops and picked up the endorsement Thursday of nearly 500 national security figures, including 22 four-star retired officers.
But top Trump campaign officials say they are confident that men and women in uniform remain assets for the president. They dismiss recent polls that show service members moving away from Mr. Trump and toward Mr. Biden.
The campaign officials say the deciding factor will be the president’s track record: drawing down forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, securing pay raises for troops, instituting reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs and other steps.
Capturing those votes could prove vital in swing states such as Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida, home to some of the country’s largest active-duty and veteran populations.
But there are reasons to question the Trump campaign’s confidence. Even a modest dip in support for Mr. Trump could make all the difference in a tight race, and some political observers say the president made a mistake early in his administration that gave Democrats a golden opportunity to gain ground.
“A lot of folks don’t realize that the military mindset is rapidly moving to the political left, just like the Justice Department, State Department and other big government entities did a long time ago,” said J.D. Gordon, a former Trump campaign national security adviser and Pentagon spokesman. “I think the campaign is doing what it can, but it’s like pushing back against a rising tide or fighting gravity — only so much you can do.
“Making matters worse, it didn’t help that while the president energized ‘America First’ types during the 2016 campaign, he ended up staffing the Pentagon as if Hillary [Clinton] or Jeb [Bush] had won, stiffing the campaign and his ideological supporters in the process,” Mr. Gordon told The Washington Times. “The White House is trying to fix this now, but it’s a little late in the game. The damage is already done.”
Indeed, some of the president’s hand-picked top national security officials, most notably former Defense Secretary James Mattis and former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, have become his most outspoken critics. Their turnabouts could offer some ideological cover for military voters who supported Mr. Trump in 2016 but now feel differently.
Mr. Gordon and other analysts say the White House missed a chance to install officials who deeply believed in the president’s foreign policy agenda. Instead, daylight between Mr. Trump and Pentagon leaders may have trickled down the ranks.
Mr. Trump also has publicly clashed with military leaders on Middle East strategy, the handling of individual military justice cases and other issues. This summer, Defense Secretary Mark Esper broke with the president over plans to deploy active-duty troops to quell riots and unrest in major American cities.
Mr. Trump at times has leaned into tension with the Pentagon and appealed directly to the rank and file after going over the heads of officers he once called “my generals.”
“I’m not saying the military’s in love with me,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference this month. “The soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
A recent story in The Atlantic that claimed the president referred to fallen troops as “losers” and “suckers” has only deepened concerns that Mr. Trump may be alienating the military and could lose his once-considerable edge among service members.
The president has vehemently denied making those comments. A host of current and former officials who were with Mr. Trump in 2018 when he allegedly made the comments also have challenged the article.
Even before the story was published, a Military Times poll released late last month showed troubling signs for the president. In the survey, 41% of active-duty troops said they would vote for Mr. Biden, compared with just 37% for Mr. Trump.
The data showed a remarkable fall for the president. At the start of his tenure in January 2017, 46% of service members had a positive view of Mr. Trump. In the most recent survey, that number was just 38%.
Ending ‘endless wars’
Trump supporters dismiss that poll, and the campaign says other data tells a much different story. A recent Fox News survey showed 56% of military veterans support the president, compared with 40% for Mr. Biden. The Fox poll was conducted in early September, several days after the release of the article in The Atlantic.
Because that survey included veterans and the Military Times poll focused just on active-duty troops, campaign officials say, it offers more proof of solid support in military circles. They also point out that Mr. Trump captured the support of more than 60% of military veterans in his 2016 contest with Mrs. Clinton, according to most exit polling.
This time, they expect the president to fare even better, in large part because of considerable progress on his pledge to wind down “endless wars” in the Middle East and bring thousands of troops back home.
“Whether it be rebuilding the American military, brokering peace in the Middle East or bringing home our troops, the facts are undeniable: President Trump is the biggest advocate for our men and women in uniform and will always fight to defend them,” Ken Farnaso, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, told The Times. He called the campaign’s Veterans for Trump “one of our strongest coalitions to date.”
Veterans for Trump and other military-related campaign outreach efforts have held events recently in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other key battleground states, and many more are planned during the home stretch of the race, officials said. The campaign also points to a recent Trump endorsement by 235 retired military officials.
“After years of neglect from the Obama-Biden administration, our service members and veterans have finally found a strong advocate in President Trump,” the campaign said in a statement announcing the endorsements.
The president also is expected to make his military and foreign policy record a centerpiece of his pitch during debates with Mr. Biden, particularly how he reduced the U.S. military presence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan during his first term without starting any foreign conflicts.
Critics say Mr. Trump has dispatched thousands of additional troops to bases in Kuwait, Bahrain and elsewhere in the Middle East because of tensions with Iran. The Pentagon no longer releases exact counts, but deployments and redeployments to the region over the past two years seem to greatly outnumber the troops Mr. Trump has brought home.
Mr. Trump’s opponents intend to spend huge sums of money in the next month to appeal to veterans and to use military issues to sway crucial undecided voters.
In addition to left-leaning PACs such as VoteVets that are staunchly anti-Trump, groups such as The Lincoln Project, made up of current and former Republicans, are leaning hard into foreign policy, national security and the president’s relationship with the armed forces.
The Lincoln Project reportedly is launching a major ad buy in publications such as the Military Times and Stars and Stripes, both of which have huge readerships among service members, their families and veterans.
“It’s a complete disgrace that a commander in chief who dodged serving in Vietnam and denigrated POWs publicly has the audacity to disrespect the millions of brave men and women who volunteered for military service,” Fred Wellman, the Lincoln Project’s senior adviser for veterans affairs, told Politico this week.
⦁ Lauren Toms contributed to this report.
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UK PM fights worsening coronavirus symptoms in intensive care
London, United Kingdom – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is battling worsening coronavirus symptoms, was stable during his first night in an intensive care unit at a London hospital, the PM’s spokesman said on Tuesday. “The prime minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits. He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and…
London, United Kingdom – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is battling worsening coronavirus symptoms, was stable during his first night in an intensive care unit at a London hospital, the PM’s spokesman said on Tuesday.
“The prime minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits. He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any other assistance. He has not required mechanical ventilation, or non-invasive respiratory support,” the spokesman said, adding that Johnson did not have pneumonia.
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Johnson, 55, first announced he had tested positive for the virus on March 27 and went into self-isolation.
After failing to shake off a high fever for more than a week, he was admitted to Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in central London on Sunday from where he continued to lead the government until he was moved into intensive care on Monday evening, when his condition deteriorated.
“Over the course of [Monday] afternoon, the condition of the prime minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the intensive care unit at the hospital,” Number 10 said in a statement.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on a screen as he remotely chairs the morning novel coronavirus COVID-19 meeting by video link, in Downing Street in central London [File: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/ AFP]
Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputise where necessary.
“The focus of the government will continue to be on making sure that the prime minister’s direction, all the plans for making sure that we can defeat coronavirus and can pull the country through this challenge, will be taken forward,” said Raab. “The government’s business will continue.”
The PM’s spokesman on Tuesday said Raab and the cabinet had authority to decide on national security issues in Johnson’s absence, but that Raab did not currently have power to hire or fire ministers.
If Raab became unable to lead, Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, would lead government, said the spokesman.
At least 5,373 people in the UK have died from coronavirus, a disease which has infected almost 52,000.
Before being moved within the hospital, Johnson tweeted: “Last night, on the advice of my doctor, I went into hospital for some routine tests as I’m still experiencing coronavirus symptoms. I’m in good spirits and keeping in touch with my team, as we work together to fight this virus and keep everyone safe.
“I’d like to say thank you to all the brilliant NHS staff taking care of me and others in this difficult time. You are the best of Britain. Stay safe everyone and please remember to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”
The queen, who recently gave a rare address to the nation amid the coronavirus crisis, is being informed about Johnson’s health.
While doctors attempted to help Johnson recover on Tuesday, world leaders paid tribute as political figures in the United Kingdom across the spectrum set differences aside to send messages of support.US President Donald Trump said: “I’ve gotten to know him [Johnson]. He’s just such an incredible guy.
“It was just so shocking to see that because you know what that means – intensive care is a big deal with regard to what we’re talking about. That’s a very big deal. Very scary deal.”
“All my support for Boris Johnson, his family and the British people at this difficult time.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wished “for a full and speedy recovery” for his British counterpart.
“My thoughts are with you and your family right now. Hope to see you back at Number 10 soon.”
Keir Starmer, the new leader of the main opposition Labour Party, tweeted: “Terribly sad news. All the country’s thoughts are with the Prime Minister and his family during this incredibly difficult time.”
Starmer’s predecessor Jeremy Corbyn said: “My thoughts are with Boris Johnson and his family.
“Thanks to the NHS staff for their hard work and dedication.”
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