“It’ll be an event that all the nation stops and looks at,” said Iowa’s Steve King in announcing “an annual multi-candidate forum for presidential hopefuls.”
King made the announcement in a Monday telephone interview with The Des Moines Register. The move formally sets King up as a king-maker of sorts, as all roads to the GOP nomination run through Iowa.
The inaugural “Iowa Freedom Summit” will be held on Saturday, Jan. 24, in Des Moines, a full year before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. The event will be co-hosted by Citizens United, “a conservative organization best known for influencing campaign finance in this country”.
Three Republicans who are seriously weighing 2016 presidential bids are already booked as headline speakers for the summit, which will have no cost to attend: Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.
Said King, “What gets said and done, some of those things will be driving the conversation in the country.” And he’s already invited every Republican thinking about running for the presidency, according to reports.
Presidential candidates have long courted King’s stamp of approval. He gave his blessing to Fred Thompson in the 2008 presidential cycle, although not until just a couple of weeks before the caucuses, blunting the effectiveness of the endorsement. In the 2012 cycle, he came close to endorsing Mitt Romney, but ended up holding off his praise for the former Massachusetts governor until after the caucuses.
King told the Register that he will endorse this cycle.
It’s not the first time King has held a multicandidate forum. He hosted one in March 2011 at the Des Moines Marriott that featured his close friend Michele Bachmann, as well as Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain. Rick Santorum canceled because of a family emergency.