It Rolls Downhill
By Jacob Hall
It’s fair to call Sioux County, Iowa “Conservative USA.” After growing up in Des Moines and living there for my first 24 years and then moving to Sioux County, it’s clear the two places have very different priorities.
Formerly part of Iowa’s Fifth Congressional District, Northwest Iowa voters have been represented by Congressman Steve King in Washington D.C for the last decade. Though he’s said some things that have made us cringe from time to time, he has stood with us on the basics. He’s the kind of congressman who makes all the right people mad — the kind you’d expect to represent Sioux County to America.
To truly understand Sioux County I must share some recent history.
Four years ago Barack Obama received 18.2 percent of the vote from Sioux County. That was after 74 Democrats caucused in Sioux County. The population of Sioux County was 33,704 as of the 2010 census.
John McCain eked by with 81.2 percent of the vote. Yes, even Sioux County compromised on a few issues and followed the establishment’s lead. McCain, though, wasn’t a darling of Sioux County in the 2008 Iowa Caucus. He received just 15.7% of the vote while Mike Huckabee won Sioux County with 52.9 percent. Mitt Romney received 14%. There were 2,140 Republican voters in the caucus that year. A tad more than the 74 Democratic caucus goers who could’ve held a fair number of those caucuses in the closest gas station restroom — and still would’ve had plenty of room.
Enthusiasm was up in the 2012 Iowa Caucus, though Romney’s numbers weren’t. Sen. Rick Santorum won the county with 45.58 percent of the vote. That isn’t as impressive as Huckabee’s numbers from 2008, but the number to focus on is Romney’s, which was 14.45 percent. In four years of being the GOP front-runner, Romney gained .45 of a percentage point among the voters in Sioux County. Add up the “Not Romneys” and the scoreboard reads 85.55 percent “Not Romneys” to 14.45 percent Romney. In a word, ouch.
That brings us back to Congressman King, who is now in a race to maintain his seat that is labeled as a “toss up.” Part of the reason it’s a toss up is due to the redrawn Fourth District. But it’s possible another reason is a lack of enthusiasm from the base to support Romney.
In 2008 King beat challenger Matthew Campbell by 33 percent. The gap hasn’t been closed entirely by a redrawn district. Something must be different.
When Romney visited Northwestern College in Orange City, one of two Christian colleges located in Sioux County, Congressman King told the audience they can feel comfortable voting for Mitt Romney and assured them Romney has the necessary faith in God to lead.
“Don’t doubt this man’s faith. Don’t doubt his convictions. Do not doubt his patriotism or his faith and his love for Jesus Christ our savior, ” said the congressman about the Mormon Republican nominee.
It was an awkward feeling at the time. There we were, two months from the so-called “most important presidential election of our lifetime,” and Congressman King had to get up in front of a few thousand Christian conservatives in Sioux County and try to ease our hesitations on voting for Romney. That’s not good. Romney hasn’t convinced us of his principles in five years, why did Congressman King think he could do it in in a few sentences?
According to electionprojection.com, Congressman King is likely to win by 2.4 percent. I know having an opponent with the name power of Vilsack in Iowa hurts a little (her husband Tom Vilsack was a two-term governor). I know going up against millions of dollars hurts a little. But I don’t know that anything hurts King more than having Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket.
Case in point: the Sioux Center Republican Victory Office held its official opening Sept. 18. Sioux City radio host Sam Clovis, State Senator Randy Feenstra and Congressman King spoke at the event.
Six people showed up. Six.
It wasn’t exactly an energetic crowd either. The office promoted the event six full days in advance. Either the Sioux County GOP failed to get word out or Sioux County voters just aren’t that excited.
I trust voters in Sioux County recognize the importance of taking advantage of their right to vote. But I also recognize they may not want to vote for Romney. I still haven’t seen a single Romney yard sign pop up in Sioux Center.
However, with such a stark contrast between possible representatives and an opportunity to kick off one more activist judge from the Iowa Supreme Court, this is an important election. Those two efforts cannot afford to lose any votes. They need to find a way to gain votes.
Supporting Mitt Romney will not gain them any votes. Heck, Mitt Romney couldn’t gain himself any votes in Sioux County and had five years to do it.
It’s time for Congressman King to abandon ship and stop reminding Sioux County voters Romney is our presidential candidate. He needs to embrace a movement that has some principle and character instead of the shake and rattle of an Etch-A-Sketch.
Jacob Hall has contributed to publications throughout Iowa since 1999 in both sports and politics.