Although Iowa Rep. Steve King is holding back his coveted political endorsement with only days to go before his state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, he tells Newsmax that he almost certainly would choose former House Speaker Newt Gingrich over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Describing Gingrich as a “brilliant man, who generates all kinds of ideas,” King said pundits will be talking about Gingrich’s debate performances in future elections.
“I think a lot of Speaker Gingrich, and there would have to be some discipline on the myriad of ideas that he brings to the table. But that’s what Congress is for,” King said.
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However, it is becoming less likely he will make a formal endorsement of any GOP presidential candidates before Tuesday’s caucuses, the conservative Republican told Newsmax in an exclusive interview today.
“We’re closing in fast on the Iowa caucuses, so it’s less likely today than it was yesterday, but I am meeting with candidates, talking with them, talking with their staff and my staff is too,” he said. “I’m still hopeful that there will be a way that I can come to a conviction but it must be a conviction. It is not good enough to pull a name out of a hat or just make an endorsement that is not one that is grounded in the brain and in the gut.”
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Romney would make a better manager, King acknowledged, but he added that Gingrich is a more desirable candidate to defeat President Barack Obama.
“Mitt Romney is a significantly better candidate than he was four years ago. He’s been campaigning now for five or so years for president,” King said. “If you want someone in charge that you’ll know the trains will run on time, Mitt Romney is the man that we have confidence in that he can do that.”
But voters have questions over Romney’s conservative convictions, particularly healthcare.
“He’s been consistent over the last four or five years, however, and the burden that he carries with him is his healthcare policy in Massachusetts makes it really hard for him to challenge Barack Obama on Obamacare,” King said. “And this race must be about a full 100 percent repeal of Obamacare. I give the nod to Gingrich in that particular contest.”
In a match between former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the nod goes to Santorum, with whom King hunted during the holiday weekend.
He described both Santorum and Paul as constitutionalists but said he has difficulty accepting some of Paul’s ideas, particularly with respect to bringing American troops back to the United States.
“Rick Santorum does see the world as a large geopolitical contest between the military, economic, cultural and political,” King said. “Ron Paul says, just simply, ‘I would bring all of our military back to U.S. shores.’ That’s inside the 50 states. That means no base anywhere in the world controlled by the United States other than in the United States itself.”
He believes that Paul’s solution would lead to what he describes as a power vacuum. “And I think it would be a calamity that transcends the next century, so I give the nod there to Rick Santorum,” King said.
If the contest were between former Ambassador Jon Huntsman and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, he would choose the Texan, based partly on the fact that Huntsman hasn’t spent much time in his state.
“I think he’s a likeable personality and he sees the world through the eyes of the ambassador to China so he’s added to the debate,” King observed. “But from the Rick Perry standpoint, he’s a strong proponent of the 10th Amendment, devolving powers back to the states where they constitutionally belong and stripping down government and getting it down to the essential functions. So out of those two, I’d give the nod to Rick Perry.”
Although the five-term congressman called the Hawkeye State caucuses fluid, he said he believes that Romney, Paul, and Gingrich will be among the top three finishers. Rep. Michele Bachmann, Santorum, or Perry could forge a surprise third-place finish, he said.
“One of them, I think, will separate themselves from the other two and may have a chance to leap over potentially a Gingrich and finish third,” he said. “If that’s the case they do get some energy coming out of Iowa.”
King also said that there’s still time for Iowa to give way to a seminal campaign moment.
“Perhaps Iowa will sort this out in a way that we’ll see a candidate emerge,” he said. “And they may still have that seminal moment that one of them will stay on the top as king of the hill here in Iowa now. Someone may stand on top of that hill with a more clearly articulated plan for America. And if not, maybe we’re shaping that so that can happen in New Hampshire, or South Carolina, or Florida.”
King said he has held back on an endorsement in the hope that one of the candidates will be able to articulate a vision for America’s future and destiny.
“Ronald Reagan did it so well. And I’m listening for that. I think if you aspire to be the president of the United States there should be a clear vision on what America would look like in a decade, in a generation, under your leadership and how you get there,” King explained. “I’m not really hearing transformative tax policy coming out of these candidates at this point. And I think we need transformative tax policy, too.”
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