The Republican Party may be dealt another far-right candidate in a potentially competitive U.S. Senate race if a poll released Tuesday is any indication.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is the favorite among Iowa Republicans to run in next year’s contest to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), according to the latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling. The poll showed 41 percent of usual GOP primary voters in the state identifying King as their preferred candidate over three other Republicans. Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) was a distant second with 22 percent support among Hawkeye State Republicans. Neither King nor Latham so far has declared an intention to run.
Some conservatives, including a new group backed by political operative Karl Rove, have warned recently that nominating King would put Republicans in the same bind they found themselves in the previous two cycles, when the party squandered prime pick-up opportunities in Senate races by fielding candidates who turned out to be too extreme for voters.
In 2008, King said that electing President Barack Obama would be bad “optics” in the Muslim world. And last August, King seemingly backed up the now-infamous argument made by embattled Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), saying he’s never never heard of a woman getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest.
PPP’s findings suggested that King could face the same fate in a general election as Akin. In four hypothetical matchups tested by PPP, King trailed by seven to 11 points against notable Democrats, including a 10-point deficit to former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D). The poll indicated that Latham would fare much better in a general election.
While 63 percent of Republicans in Iowa have a favorable opinion of King, only 32 percent of all registered voters feel the same way. Forty-one percent of Iowa voters have an unfavorable opinion of King (compared with just 12 percent of GOP voters), while more than a quarter of all voters said they have no opinion of the conservative firebrand.
Along with PPP’s release, a survey released Tuesday from GOP pollster Wenzel Strategies also pegged King as the clear favorite among Republicans in the state. In that poll, 34 percent of GOP primary voters said they would vote for King in a prospective eight candidate intra-party contest, while 19 percent said they would vote for Latham.
Tom Kludt is a newswriter for TPM. A former research intern and polling fellow for TPM, he lives and works in New York City. Tom graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Dakota in May of 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and History. He can be reached at Tom (at) talkingpointsmemo.com.