It's really weird. First, he goes through and strikes candidates off his list:
McCain remains an active proponent of comprehensive amnesty which puts our national sovereignty at stake.On Rudy:
His positions on life and marriage do not square with a promise to appoint “strict constructionist” judges. The former mayor of a sanctuary city would be unlikely to put an end to sanctuary cities, let alone bring operational control to the border and shut off the jobs magnet.On Huckabee:
But Huckabee has been forceful and even judgmental in voicing his conviction to give scholarships to illegal immigrants. Just one amnesty policy, and there are others, destroys the chance to reestablish the Rule of Law. How can Huckabee answer to the sons and daughters of veterans or veterans themselves who come back from the war to find that illegals have desks in classrooms at a discount prohibited to them? Compassionate conservatism run amok is hard to harness, as we have seen. The Rule of Law cannot be reestablished without “tough love”. Our destiny pivots on amnesty.Next he lists Thompson with quite a few praises, but with these critiques:
Thompson, like Bush, would need help with appointments. He needs to really want to be president.I'm sure all the reporters and Romney people in the room thought it was in the bag for Romney at this point. Especially when he started to bring up religion:
The cultural calamity toward which we are headed is the focus of my life. I believe America was founded by Christians and that the broad core of our culture is Christian, founded in Judaeo-Christian values. I do not believe America, or the American Presidency, is closed to other faiths, let alone other Christian faiths. I believe our destiny as a nation is in the hands of God, but as individuals we have free will. Some are so passionate in their beliefs that they believe they have the market cornered on salvation. In fact, if we didn’t believe our faith was the true faith, there would be no reason for competing denominations. God only knows if any of us are right, but each of us justly believe we are.Then he goes on:
That candidate also has to have the fire in his belly to go the distance and the brains and resources to get there.Well, it sounds like Romney is King's man then. Fred is against the Constitutional Ammendment of Marriage Protection. He is not a religious man by most reports (and a "record of faith" is not something that Fred or his supporters tout). On the issue of family . . . he hardly has the model history. He long played "The Bachelor" lady's man inside the beltway for over a decade. Also, I'm still searching for any huge "successes" Fred can lay claim to. I mean those few lines I quoted above are right out of the Romney campaign "talking points" about what's so good about him.
That candidate also meets the test of life and marriage, judges and borders. That candidate has taken solid, persistent, and principled positions consistent with the Republican platform-which we wrote to inform the candidates of the positions of Iowa Republicans.
That candidate has a record of faith, family, freedom, service, and success.
But what is interesting is that King never even mentioned Romney in his whole statement (he even talked of Tancredo, Hunter and Paul, in addition to the ones I mentioned above).
It gets even stranger . . . as Kay Henderson from the Radio Iowa blog reports:
After the event, I asked King if he had made up his mind on the spot as he was
speaking this morning.
"You have great intuition," King replied.
Sounds like he was planning to endorse Romney . . . but just decided on the spot to go with Fred. Amazing and baffling.
(PS. I wonder how many Huckabee supporters in his district sent him emails/calls/letters threatening to withdraw their voting and financial support if he endorsed Romney . . . just wondering . . . maybe Fred was the safe choice for King?)
Update (3 hours later): I didn't get a chance to finish my thoughts before publishing the above entry.
First off, Kudos to Thompson for getting this endorsement. It will help Fred in Iowa . . . there is little doubt of that. He got the endorsement and I'm not whining about it.
However, it is INCREDIBLY doubtful that this will bring Thompson up to the level of challenging Mitt and Huck to win Iowa. The guy just doesn't "have it" on the stump and is too cash strapped to build any momentum off of positive news like this.
But what this does do is make it harder for Rudy, McCain, or Paul to come in third in Iowa (if the "three tickets out of Iowa" theory even applies this year). Those guys will be fighting for 4th-6th places (could this have been part of the strategy for King . . . wanting to cripple McCain and Rudy who he's never been a fan of?)
Also, I think that Huckabee stands to lose more from King going to Fred than Romney does. Huck's base of support is strongest in western Iowa . . . and specifically in King's district. It may give some of them "pause" that Huck didn't get this endorsement and that Fred might be an acceptable (non anti-Bush) alternative. I'm sure Romney could lose some to Thompson too . . . but geographically Huck is more vulnerable here.
Again, I wish Romney had gotten this endorsement (King could have played "Kingmaker"), but it is still telling that King had negative things to say about all the top teir candidates (even Thompson) except Romney during this endorsement. Hopefully King's statements here will reflect a similar unwillingness to trash Romney on the stump when he seems open to doing that for all the other candidates.
Crazy day (especially with NBC's "First Read" and the Radio Iowa Blog going forward with the "King endorsing Romney" story before retracting it back.)
Update #2: And it gets more baffling . . . from the NBC reporter who went "live" with the "King Endorses Romney" story we get this update:
No one will ever accused Rep. Steve King (R) of not being theatrical.Weird, weird, weird. What could have caused King to "call and audible" on this one at the last minute? Thoughts?
The Iowa congressman kept his endorsement choice under wraps so closely that no one knew who he would choose between Thompson or Romney for his nod. The vociferous critic of illegal immigration was said to have narrowed his choice to the two candidates, but he joked that "not even his wife" knew who he'd choose.
But at the start of a sparsely attended press conference in Des Moines today, the superstars of Romney's Iowa shop gathered in the back, leading journalists to conclude that King's nod was destined for the Massachusetts governor. But then curious members of Team Thompson swooped in at the last minute.
Apparently, no one knew what lurked in the congressman's mind.
As he named each GOP candidate, King called the choice of endorsement "one of the hardest decisions I've ever made in my life, and one of the latest coming."
He mentioned the pros and cons of each candidate, notably ruling out both Giuliani and Huckabee, after casting doubt upon their records on immigration.
As he detoured into a treatise on religious tolerance -- a clear reference to Romney's Mormonism -- a Romney endorsement seemed imminent. "I think it's inappropriate to draw conclusions about what we think someone else's faith might be," he said.
"There's only one candidate who epitomizes the full spectrum of our conservative values," he continued. "There is one who is a comfortable conservative, in whom I have full confidence in his decisions."
"He also has the fire in his belly to go the distance, and the brains and resources to get there," said King.
Nail in the coffin for Thompson, everyone thought in the room. (Thompson is frequently caricatured as sluggish and apathetic about his White House hopes, and his campaign coffers are paltry in comparison to Romney's millions.)
Then King added, "If it's not there, I intend to work hard to put it there." The typing and the scratching of pens in the room suddenly stopped as reporters' heads snapped up. "I will put all of my efforts -- and the fire into the belly -- of the person who I believe destiny has called to be the president of the United States."
"I will be working for and supporting Fred Thompson for president."
As King dramatically took off his glasses, folded them, and put them back in his coat pocket, the room was almost silent. A lone Thompson staffer clapped a few times.
And more than one reporter re-learned a hard lesson … it ain't over til it's over.
P.S. Here's the audio of the press conference courtesy of Radio Iowa.