AKRON — Over the weekend, several Republicans made their way to Hole ‘N the Wall Lodge, in northwest Iowa, for the eighth annual “Bud Day” pheasant hunt hosted by Congressman Steve King (R-IA).
The hunt raises money for King’s campaign fund.
The scene might have been ripped from an NRA advertising campaign. Pheasants, affectionately called “ringnecks” by enthusiastic hunters, flittered across the sky. Yells of “rooster!” and sporadic gunfire followed.
King invites officials to each year’s hunt, which occurs on the opening weekend of hunting season, and serves as a memorial for the deceased Col. Bud Day. This year Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and former congressmen Gil Gutknecht and Tom Tancredo were among the rank.
Presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee also made appearances, hoping to “bag” King’s so far elusive endorsement.
Though it was billed as a hunt (singular), there appeared to be four or five hunts simultaneously in action: hunters bagged pheasants, candidates tried to shore up King’s endorsement and King bagged campaign donations. All the while, media sought information and pictures on all of the above.
Journalists from outlets as ecumenically situated as the Wall Street Journal, the National Review, Fox News, the Sioux City Journal, CNN and PBS appeared to slog through the untilled fields and observe the candidates.
King, who has been described somewhat playfully as Iowa’s “Kingmaker,” did not endorse in 2012, but has indicated he is prepared to do so in the present caucus cycle.
Many expect he will endorse Cruz, who has attended previous hunts and has been endorsed by state senator Bill Anderson, King’s advisor. Moreover, King’s son and campaign manager Jeff King is heading a super PAC that supports Cruz. However, when asked about any impending endorsement, King was coy, saying, “It’s got to come to a conviction.”
King is a favorite among conservatives in western Iowa and his endorsement would be seen as a boon to any Republican candidate.
During the event, King played both pheasant and hunter, playing coy with candidates to avoid proffering an endorsement, even as he bolstered his influence and campaign fund.
Asked about his criteria for endorsement, King said he is seeking a “full spectrum constitutional conservative,” someone who shares his views about the hypocrisy of the Obama Administration and the disappointing track of the Supreme Court.
“Somebody that understands what the Supreme Court is doing to our country, somebody that understands what the President of the United States is doing to erode our constitution and our rule of law, somebody that will take us to a balanced budget, defend our nation and rebuild our military,” King expectorated.
Even more importantly, the nation needs somebody with the confidence to reinstate America’s place in the world, King said.
At the event, King also admitted to voting for Paul Ryan for House Speaker, despite having endorsed Daniel Webster in the build up to the vote.
The events were split over Saturday and Sunday, with two hunts each day.
If candidates hoped to bag King’s endorsement, their expectations were unmet. King has yet to throw his weight behind any of the candidates. However, it is expected he will make a selection soon as the season wears on towards Feb. 1.
At the event, one hunter actually quoted Charlton Heston’s quip; and believe me, you couldn’t have taken that gun from his cold, dead hands.
When asked how many pheasants he’d “bagged”, Santorum replied: “Three. I shot three. The limit’s three. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” after which he pivoted and slipped on his sunglasses, laughing as he went.
For videos from the event, click on the follow links, Warning, they are fairly graphic.
If the democratic process annoys or confuses you: consider what it did to the pheasants.
Keep tuned in, more to follow.