Exclusive — Steve King: Team Cruz ‘Confident Without Being Cocky’ Heading into Caucuses

King and Cruz
AP/Nati Harnick

DES MOINES, Iowa — Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the highest-profile endorser of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), told Breitbart News on Monday evening that Team Cruz is “confident without being cocky” just hours before the caucuses open here at 7 p.m. CT.

King said:

I think that’s where things are. Cruz peaked a little bit earlier than his strategy would have liked to happen, and when that happens all guns are turned on the guy because he’s the political king of the hill. If the caucus were another month from now or two months from now, it would be really hard to sustain ourselves at the top of the heap. So what’s happened is not so much a decline but getting stable—he would have just shot up if it weren’t for that. The negatives that are out there have got people very confused right now, so we’ll see what happens with that. If it is a huge tsunami turnout the likes of which we have not seen and not imagined until Donald Trump came in and talked about ‘yuge,’ then if it’s that, then Trump will win here. But if it’s just a record-setter that bumps the numbers up just say 10 percent, or 15 percent, then I’d say Cruz wins.

King added that he considers the “over/under number” for turnout to be 135,000 GOP caucus-goers. “Above that it gets harder for Cruz, and below that it becomes pretty seemingly impossible for Trump to win,” King said.

King added that since there is still no evidence that turnout will be enormous enough for Trump, it may be Trump’s team is counting on Trump’s “charisma” to motivate people to vote for him in the caucuses.

“We’re going to find out if he’s a movement kind of a candidate or if he’s an entertainer,” King said of Trump. He continued:

I think Cruz wins in a photo finish over Trump. Last time, let me give you a sense of my judgement here, four years ago I predicted [Mitt] Romney would win in a photo finish over [Rick] Santorum. He did for about 10 days. [That was overturned later when it was determined Santorum won]. What, 34 votes was the difference, right? This is not going to be that close, but I can tell you I think Cruz wins this thing out. Trump in a very close second and then Rubio in a very distant third. And then Fox News will say that the story for Iowa is that Marco Rubio has ‘shown momentum and that he’s poised to work his way to the nomination over time.’ That’ll be the Fox News and establishment narrative.

King said that eventually Rubio and his team are going to have to be able to actually win a state. He can’t keep drifting along, finishing in second or third place; and with no states on the horizon that Rubio’s team is pointing to as potential victory states, he’s in serious trouble coming out of Iowa.

“You would think in his home state of Florida, especially since his competitor from that state is having a real rough go of it…” King said. “But it doesn’t look like that’s the case in Florida right now. It looks like Trump is blowing him [Rubio] away, and I think if there was a primary in Florida today, I think Trump wins and I think Cruz and Rubio would be neck-and-neck for second and third. And Jeb [Bush] would be at the bottom of the heap in Florida.”

King said that the political establishment losing so badly—with Rubio’s epic failure in Iowa imminent—that they have “demonstrated that not only are they sore losers, but they might be sore winners.” He went on:

I say that thinking about how they have doubled down and split their bets—I look at Rubio as kind of this adopted new establishment candidate and while that’s going on they wanted Jeb and it looks like they can’t advance Jeb so it looks like they decided they’ll throw their support also behind a dealmaker, Trump. They’re thinking that at worst they can always do transactions with Trump. He is transactional. So I think that’s the rationale that’s going on so if they have to accept a transactional Trump they’ll do that even though they probably would rather have a Rubio especially a transactional Rubio. The last thing they want is a pure conservative who will do what the conservatives in America want him to do. That’s Cruz, of course.

King said he’s amazed with how Cruz has come from the bottom of the pack to now be competing with Trump for either first or second place in tonight’s caucuses. King said of the Cruz campaign:

It’s been terrific. I would add to that that four years last November, I remember sitting in a pickup that became known later as the ‘Chuck Truck’ [which was owned by Chuck Laudner, now Trump’s top Iowa staffer who helped deliver Iowa to Rick Santorum in 2012] at 1:30 in the morning talking through the presidential race at the time, and Rick Santorum was down pretty low in the polls, I don’t know where. There were a lot fewer candidates than we have today. I remember talking the race through and concluding that Santorum could win Iowa if he just had the right kind of help. I remember saying, ‘I can’t get to an endorsement of Santorum at this time’ for a whole bunch of reasons. But it looked like he was the guy who should win the nomination and could win the Iowa caucus. And from that time in November, I believed that Santorum was going to be able to make a run at it—and I thought on caucus night he was going to fall a handful of votes short, but it turns out over time he was a handful of votes long—but that’s how close I judged things four years ago over a few months. That was about the same time I endorsed Ted Cruz, which happened to be Nov. 16 of last year. So from that time, it’s been a ride of ascendency, sailing on up and a big bump in the polls that gave him [Cruz] a foundation from which to build.

King added that Cruz “has been very, very smart about this and deployed his resources well,” while also putting “together a strategic nationwide campaign.”

“He’s not only a guy who can win us the nomination, but he can win the general election,” King said. “It’s nice to have a really smart guy at the helm.”