If Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is a soon-to-be Senate candidate, he isn't fundraising like one, and his latest Federal Election Commission reports have contributed to a growing buzz that the outspoken conservative will take a pass on his state's open-seat Senate race.
To some political observers, the $91,000 King raised in the first quarter of 2013 is a sign he isn't gearing up for a statewide race. "King has yet to make a decision on the race but his latest FEC disclosure doesn't indicate that he's preparing for race of that magnitude. Very little activity," said Craig Robinson, editor of the Iowa Republican and former political director of the state GOP.
Granted, King still raised at more than double the pace he did in the first quarter of 2011, when he brought in just over $41,000. And King, who was endorsed by the donation-bundling powerhouse Club for Growth last cycle, has the proven ability to turn up the heat when he needs to: He is one of just a handful of House members who raised over $1 million in a single quarter in 2012.
Still, one national Democratic operative said Tuesday that King was planning to bow out, having seen polling that showed he couldn't win. Another Iowa Republican operative raised doubts about King's ability to win votes statewide, a factor that might deter him from running. King would run well in the western part of the state, the operative said, but Rep. Bruce Braley -- the Democratic Senate candidate -- would retain a wide advantage in his east-based First District.
Braley is off to a solid head start, raising $1 million in the first quarter, but GOP consultant Steve Grubbs said early fundraising would not be factor. Still, he said, building a grassroots organization would take time for any Republican candidate. Republican strategist Bob Haus said a quick King decision would be beneficial for the rest of the GOP field. "It would be helpful for him to signal one way or another soon," Haus said.
King drew fire from a Karl Rove-founded group in early February, which used him as an example of "unelectable" GOP candidates. King pushed back, saying no one could "bully" him out of the Senate race and using the attacks as fundraising fodder to stir up his grassroots supporters, though they obviously didn't reap much campaign cash. More recently, King said the "needle has gone over 50 percent" and he could "see a path to victory" statewide.
A King press staffer said he "hasn't made a decision" yet on the race.