Oft-mentioned 2012 GOP presidential prospect Sarah Palin trails former Govs. Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney in Iowa, and is not the current favorite to win the Hawkeye State caucuses, based on statewide polling that Rep. Steve King conducted.
King, R-Iowa, won re-election in a landslide on Tuesday and shared details of his private polling during an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV.
"We ran some numbers with our statewide polling we did as part of our campaign here," King tells Newsmax. "And we saw Mike Huckabee was still in the lead, and that Mitt Romney was running second.
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"Sarah Palin was down a little ways, along with Newt Gingrich," he says.
Iowa, with the first date on the primary calendar, plays a critical role in selecting the GOP presidential nominee.
King hastens to add, however, that he believes Palin would be able to "build a base pretty quickly" there.
One Palin advantage: She gave an early endorsement to GOP Gov.-elect Terry Branstad, who on Tuesday became the first candidate in 48 years to unseat an incumbent Iowa governor (Democrat Chet Culver). Huckabee, by contrast, had endorsed Branstad's GOP opponent, tea party favorite Bob Vander Plaats, in the primary.
Now that the midterm elections are in the rearview mirror, all eyes are looking toward 2012. As arguably the only bona fide GOP celebrity, Palin already is sucking a lot of oxygen out of the room.
A national Rasmussen Reports survey Thursday showed Romney leading the GOP field with 20 percent, followed by Huckabee and Palin at 19 percent among likely GOP primary voters. Thirteen percent favor former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Regardless of the early polling, King says Palin's brand of politics would make her a formidable force in the Hawkeye State.
"This is retail politics, and she has an extraordinary charisma and magnetism about her," King tells Newsmax. "The presence of Sarah Palin in the room at any event puts all kinds of energy in it."
Iowa has a strong male-senior demographic, King says. "Senior men seem to really light up to Sarah Palin," he says, adding that Palin would be a serious competitor in the Iowa caucuses, which often serve as a springboard to the rest of the primaries.
"This is eye-to-eye, hand-to-hand, and people get to know the candidates personally," King tells Newsmax. "So they're not just making a judgment on how they are marketed over the national media with their slick-looking glossies. But they're looking at how people are handling themselves in a whole number of situations. And they have their telephone network and their e-mail tree, and this conversation that goes on statewide. It makes a big difference.
Regardless of Palin's standing in the polls now, King predicts she "will compete very well in this state."
The Iowa congressman tells Newsmax he's eager to return to Washington and assume a more prominent role in the new GOP House majority. Important items on his agenda include:
- Ratcheting back federal spending at least to 2008 levels. Entitlement spending also must be addressed, he says.
- King wants to bring a balanced budget to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote "so we can begin the debate on how we actually do get it balanced."
- He plans to push the proposed constitutional amendment for a balanced budget that he cosponsored. "That has a little more legs now" following the GOP landslide, he says.
- King wants to push for an extension of the Bush tax cuts even if President Obama refused to go along. "We're better off, if we don't get all the tax brackets extended, to package this thing up and pass it again in the first week of January with a new majority, send it over to the Senate and see what Harry Reid does with it," King says. "If he's going to block the tax extenders . . . Harry Reid may have six years but there's a group of senators that will be up for election in two years, with the presidential election in 2012. I think we need to set the right parameters down for taxes for the long term, and we should not be pulling shenanigans at a time like this."
- King tells Newsmax that he supports proposals for a House probe into the Justice Department's refusal to pursue the New Black Panther voter intimidation case, where billy-club-wielding men stood outside a polling place in Philadelphia. "They were racially motivated, I don't think there's any question about it. And [the Justice Department attorneys] have an internal decision made that they are not going to prosecute the Voting Rights Act when it is against a minority. That's something that's appalling to me," King says, "that equal justice under the law doesn't come out of the Department of Justice. I think we need to illuminate that and bring [U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder to heel on that subject matter, or else let the American people know so they can do so in the next election."
- The congressman reiterated the charge he first made in June that President Obama has a built-in "default mechanism" favoring minorities. He said the Justice Department appears to be biased as well.
- King believes neither immigration reform, which he calls "comprehensive amnesty," nor energy cap-and-trade legislation can get through the lame-duck session of Congress. But he's concerned the Environment Protection Agency might try to enact carbon-emission regulations independently of Congress.
The congressman also tells Newsmax that he will oppose any effort to pass the so-called DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens who serve at least two years in the U.S. military or spend two years in college.
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