Congressman Steve King at Cerro Gordo GOP event on 3/18/14. Photo credit: Dave Davidson (
Congressman Steve King at Cerro Gordo GOP event on 3/18/14.
Photo credit: Dave Davidson –

I have said that it is practically mathematically impossible for a Democrat to win in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District and still, for the most part, that remains to be true. However, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) has made the district more competitive than it should be.

He has always been a target of the left because of his position on immigration. His endorsement of foreign politicians who identify with the alt-right, retweeting known white nationalists, and statements on social media and during interviews have provided much, much more fodder. 

Those are unforced errors and, frankly, have nothing to do with his representation of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.

About a week after Election Day, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said that King has a decision to make.

“I think that Steve King needs to make a decision if he wants to represent the people and the values of the 4th District or do something else, and I think he needs to take a look at that,” she said during a press avail in Ottumwa, Iowa. 

The Des Moines Register reported that the 8-term Congressman’s spokesperson, John Kennedy, ignored the criticism, but praised Reynolds instead, “Congressman King loves Gov. Reynolds, is thankful to her for signing his heartbeat bill into law, and notes that they are birds of a feather because they won by similar margins.”

While they had a similar margin of victory both winning by around three percent, they are not birds of a feather when you look at the 4th District results, however.

I saw some of King’s supporters on social media respond to Reynolds’ criticism by claiming she was disloyal and that he carried her in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District.  Again, looking at the 4th District results, that claim also is not accurate.

King defeated his Democrat challenger, J.D. Scholten, by 3.33 percent representing 10,430 votes separating the two. This smaller margin of victory is remarkable considering King had a voter registration advantage before Election Day of over 70,000 voters.

By contrast, in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, Reynolds beat her Democratic challenger, Fred Hubbell, by over 20 percent and had a vote margin of 64,156.  It wasn’t even close.

In fact, had Reynolds turned in a performance in the district similar to King she would have lost her race 49.44 percent to 48.12 percent. 

King lost six of the 39 counties in the district – Boone, Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Story, Webster, and Woodbury counties. Reynolds only lost Story County. 

King underperformed all three of the statewide Republican incumbents. Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate turned in the widest margin of victory in the 4th District – almost 25 percent shy of 76,000 votes. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig, won the district by almost 23 percent, shy of a 70,000 vote margin. State Auditor Mary Mosiman, who lost re-election, won the district by almost 13 percent, a margin of almost 40,000 votes.

King won the district with an average of 21 votes per precinct. In previous years a loss would have been unthinkable, but if King further underperforms in staunchly Republican counties like Lyon and Sioux counties (where King had 1,072 and 3,747 fewer votes than Reynolds) or loses the counties he lost by a wider margin he could be in trouble.

Had Democrats recruited a “Bluedog” Democrat or centrist candidate with a military record or had there been a stronger third party or independent candidate he may very well have lost. 

As it stands now, I know some Republican donors are looking to back a primary challenger. King would do well to heed Governor Reynolds’ advice. He would only benefit by focusing on issues related to his district, tone down or avoid social media, do fewer national media hits, and stay out of foreign elections.

Photo credit: Dave Davidson (

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