SIOUX CITY -- The head of the House Republicans' campaign committee on Tuesday rebuked fellow GOP Rep. Steve King for his repeated admiration for political candidates with ties to white supremacy.
"Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate," Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, tweeted. "We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior."
After two hours after Stivers tweet, King responded with his own statement on Twitter.
"Americans, all created equal by God, with all our races, ethnicities, and national origins-legal immigrants, natural born citizens, together make up the Shining City on the Hill," King said in the statement. "These attacks are orchestrated by nasty, desperate, and dishonest fake news. Their ultimate goal is to flip the House and impeach Donald Trump. Establishment Never Trumpers are complicit."
King, for years an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, has also stirred up controversy with his pro-Western Civilization views. Most recently, he endorsed a white nationalist candidate for mayor of Toronto, and spoke to members of a far-right political party in Austria after touring historical Jewish and Holocaust sites in Poland.
The Iowa 4th District congressman defended his August meeting with members of Austria's Freedom Party, which he says rejects racist or anti-Semitic views. The conservative party, he said, shares his positions on immigration and some other issues. "If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans,” he told the Washington Post.
Stivers, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, or NRCC, is the highest-ranking GOP House member to publicly call out King. King's Democratic opponent, J.D. Scholten of Sioux City, commended Stivers.
"Last week I issued a challenge for at least one Republican elected official to condemn @SteveKingIA's recent behavior," Scholten tweeted. "I applaud @RepSteveStivers, Chair of the NRCC. Respect."
The rebuke came as dueling polls painted a different story of how close the Iowa 4th race stands heading into the final week of the campaign.
Scholten's campaign touted an online poll posted Monday night that showed the Democratic challenger just a single point behind King, 45 percent to 44 percent.
"Game on," Scholten declared in a Twitter post that linked to a story that highlighted the online poll from Change Research, a Democratic-affiliated pollster started in 2017.
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On Tuesday morning, King countered with his own internal poll, which showed him 18 points ahead of Scholten, 52 percent to 34 percent.
"Iowa voters are overwhelmingly choosing to stick with Congressman Steve King’s proven leadership and they are rejecting his opponent’s nasty, desperate, and dishonest attacks funded by San Francisco liberals," the campaign said in a statement.
Citing his controversial remarks and associations with white nationalist figure, some large businesses also have cut off financial donations to King in recent days. The latest to do so Tuesday was Twins Cities-based Land O' Lakes Foods, whose political action committee gave King's campaign $2,500 in June. The privately-owned dairy, which named Sioux City native Beth Ford as CEO and president earlier this summer, had faced growing calls for a boycott of its agricultural products over its support for King,
Also Tuesday, Cook Political Report moved the King-Scholten race from "Likely Republican" to "Leaning Republican," a further sign the non-partisan handicapper believes it's further tightening.
King, 69, has faced few serious challenges in his previous general election races in the most Republican of Iowa's four congressional districts. His closest call came in 2012 when he defeated Democrat Christie Vilsack, the wife of a former Iowa governor, 52-45 percent.
In 2016, King won by 23 points over Democrat Kim Weaver as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump carried the 39 counties in the 4th District by 27 points.
Since Trump's election, public opinion of King and Trump has soured, according to the Change Research poll, which conducted an online survey of 631 likely voters from Oct. 27-29. King's approval rating is now underwater, with 38 percent saying they viewed the Republican favorably and 48 percent saying they viewed him unfavorably. Trump's standing was somewhat better, with 51 percent of voters having favorable view of the president, while 46 percent had a unfavorable view.
King's own poll was conducted by WPA Intelligence, which surveyed 401 likely votes through live phone calls from Oct. 22-24. The poll found 52 percent of voters support King and 34 percent back Scholten, with 11 percent undecided and 3 percent saying they would support a third-party candidate. Libertarian Chuck Aldrich, of Clarion, is also on the ballot.
In a series of tweets Tuesday, Dave Waserman, U.S. House editor for Cook Political Report, said King faces his "first serious challenge" since 2012, "except this time he's almost broke & not running a real campaign."
"This is a *very* different situation than '12 or '14, when King ran was less of a pariah, ran a robust TV campaign & won #IA04 convincingly," Wasserman said in a subsequent Tweet. "He's now completely dark on TV & his campaign's YouTube channel hasn't been updated in 4 years."
Scholten has spent over $1.4 million on his campaign and has been running TV commercials "unanswered" by King for two weeks, Wasserman noted. A Political Action Committee backed by former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin has also spent $300,000 on ads that describe King as "Klan & Neo-Nazi approved."
Wasserman noted King's campaign has spent $782,000 on his campaign, but it's gone mostly for fundraising and salaries for his son, Jeff, and Jeff's wife, Lindsay.
Scholten on Monday released three new ads: two 30-second spots for TV and a 90-second digital ad.
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