Rep. Steve King, an influential religious conservative in Iowa, said Sunday that one of the reasons that Tim Pawlenty didn’t receive more support from voters in his state is because he’s part of an establishment wing of the party that is struggling in the wake of widespread discontent with Washington.
“I feel bad for [Pawlenty]. It has to be a kick in the stomach,” said King, who thought Michele Bachmann got the better of Pawlenty at Thursday’s debate. “He put in a good effort and had a good organization, but he just didn’t connect.”
Many of Pawlenty’s supporters backed Mitt Romney four years ago, and this year both men have seemed to have trouble exciting the Iowa Republican base, King said. Bachmann, on the other hand, generated excitement and “connected in a philosophical and emotional way.”
King said he was not surprised by Rick Perry’s showing in Saturday’s Straw Poll — Perry garnered 3.62% of the total with write-in votes, just ahead of Romney, who was on the ballot but did not campaign much here.
Perry supporters, under the banner of an independent expenditure group called Americans for Perry, had been working for weeks all over the state. Straw poll voters who wrote in his name were not part of a “draft Perry” movement, King said. “They were responding to Rick Perry’s unannounced ground game in Iowa.”
Saturday was not a good day for the candidates considered “establishment Republicans”—Pawlenty, Romney, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman. King said “there is a question” about whether Perry should be considered part of that group.
“Altogether, the ‘establishment’ candidates got 19% of the vote,” said King. “Less than one in five votes went to an establishment Republican.”
The summer’s budget battles in Washington hurt those candidates, he said.
“There is a broad movement that understands that business as usual in Washington is going to lead us to a financial calamity,” he said. “The debt ceiling vote is part of the long continuum of Republicans not standing up to do the hard things necessary, and they want a president who will do the hard things. That’s the Bachmann victory. They know she will do the hard things.”