If Steve King Runs for the Senate, His Opponents Will Have a Lot to Work With

Ben Terris

Earlier this month Rep. Steve King said there was a better than 50 percent chance he would run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa. A staunch conservative with a history of saying inflammatory things, is a divisive political figure by any calculation. To take the state, he’d have to overcome money from a Karl Rove organization aimed at preventing fringe GOP candidates from winning primaries, and win over districts far less conservative than his own. But his biggest obstacle may be overcoming 10-plus years of giving his opponents sound bites to use against him. Here are a few that you’ll likely hear on repeat if he runs.

Compared Immigrants to Dogs. During last year’s campaign, King made news when his comment at a town hall seemed to paint a parallel between immigrants and canines. In talking about which immigrants should be allowed to come into this country, King drew from his hunting experience for a metaphor: “You want a good bird dog?” he told the crowd in Pocahontas, Iowa. “You want one that’s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that’s the friskiest … not the one that’s over there sleeping in the corner.” King went on to say that the United States should have “the pick of the litter.”

Later, King would tell reporters that he meant no harm by the comment and that it was being blown out of proportion.

"It was a compliment.... They knew it was a compliment; they turned it into an insult because they're professional hyperventilators,” he said.

Waded into Legitimate Rape Debate. Former Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri is the poster child for why Karl Rove feels the need to fight fringe GOP candidates. His comment about “legitimate rape” became all anyone could talk about during the last election, and very well could have kept Missouri in Democratic hands.

And King just couldn’t stop himself from becoming part of the conversation. As a cosponsor of a bill called the “No Taxpayers Funding for Abortion Act,” King was asked whether exemptions should be made for victims of statutory rape or incest, such as a 12-year-old girl who gets pregnant.

"Well I just haven't heard of that being a circumstance that's been brought to me in any personal way,” he said. “I'd be open to discussion about that subject matter.”

Various media outlets picked up this comment as a sign that King may have partially agreed with Akin’s stance. And while his statement wasn't nearly as controversial as Akin’s comments at the time, it is likely to become part of the conversation in a senatorial election.

Called Joe McCarthy a Hero. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s name has become synonymous with witch hunts. And yet, in 2005, King called the former chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, or HUAC, a “hero.”

“His tactics were relentless, his personality invidious, and his habits sometimes excessive,” King said. “Nonetheless, he was a central figure in the movement to remove communist spies and sympathizers from our most sensitive government positions.”

And that was not just a one-time declaration. For years, King has been pushing the sentiment, saying in 2010 that he supported the reestablishment of HUAC,  "but I would support a different committee name so that we don't have to deal with the history, and move forward."

Is Not a Fan of Gay Marriage. When the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples could marry in the state, King warned that the Hawkeye State could become the “mecca” for gay marriage.  Anyone who didn’t already know how he felt about the issue needn’t look any further than a 2003 press release King issued after a Sioux City judge granted a divorce to a lesbian couple.

“Unicorns, leprechauns, gay marriages in Iowa — these are all things you will never find, because they just don’t exist,” he said.

But, if you want to look beyond that view, check out King claimiing that same-sex marriage is really just a push for socialism.

Says He Might Start His Own Country, Anyway. Democrats don't want King to become senator, and Rove and other Republicans worry he may hurt their chances at picking up the seat. They might prefer that he start his own country somewhere and stay out of Iowa. Who knows, maybe he will. After the House passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, King told a crowd of tea-party activists he was thinking about it. 

"If I could start a country with a bunch of people, they’d be the folks who were standing with us the last few days," he told the crowd. "Let’s hope we don’t have to do that! Let’s beat that other side to a pulp! Let’s take them out. Let’s chase them down. There’s going to be a reckoning!"