The Fine Print
For 2016 political spectators, all eyes will be on Iowa this weekend, as a group of likely Republican presidential contenders converge in the state to attend the Iowa Freedom Summit hosted by Rep. Steve King.
Before heading to the summit, the Iowa Republican sat down with “The Fine Print” at the Dubliner pub in Washington, D.C. to discuss the field of GOP candidates, which he believes to be “the biggest and most robust ever.”
King, an outspoken conservative who hopes to wield his influence over the next presidential race, said he plans to endorse a candidate at some point, but he’s not picking favorites yet.
And when it comes to finding an alternative to President Obama, he’ isn’t picky. King said he’d gladly take any among a half-dozen of the current likely contenders over Obama.
“There are a half-a-dozen candidates, plus or minus a little bit, that I would put their names in a hat and draw one out and be really happy as a replacement to the president we have today,” King said.
King directly praised former 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as a potential 2016 contender.
“I personally like Mitt Romney and [his wife] Ann, and I respect him and his family, and I have said that their five sons were in 99 counties in Iowa, and there's not a negative narrative that came out of all of that,” King said. “I'm not making an endorsement nor leaning in a direction, but I want to encourage those who are looking at the presidency to come to Iowa and compete.”
In addition to Mitt Romney, there are many faces among the crop of likely candidates who are familiar to Iowa voters.
But that’s not a concern to King.
“The experience of being a candidate before is valuable in a contest like this … especially in Iowa,” King said. “The nomination process is a crucible that brings out the best in the candidates, sorts things out, and the ideas, the planks for the platform, emerge also in that kind of competition.”
One issue that is of particular interest to King when it comes to deciding whom he will endorse: their stance on immigration reform. King is strongly against giving immigrants who came to the United States illegally a pathway to citizenship.
“I am looking for a full-spectrum constitutional conservative who has reverence for their own oath to the Constitution, and one who will work to restore the rule of law, and one who will be used to restore the soul of America,” King said.
King explained that his stance on the issue is grounded in a strict interpretation of the Constitution and respect for the rule of law -- something he says has been “damaged severely under this president.”
King stirred up controversy on Twitter earlier this week when he called one of the guests invited to sit with First Lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union -- someone the White House would call a “DREAMer” -- a “deportable.”
King defended his use of the term “deportable,” calling it an accurate “legal term.”
“I would just direct people that have any question about that to AUSC 1227, which is the section in the U.S. Code that is titled this: ‘Deportable Aliens,’” King said. “I mean, it is a legal term.”
Asked if his uncompromising stance on immigration makes him an “outlier” in his party, King embraced the label.
“If by outlier you mean, in the classical sense, that my voice on these issues leads us to the place where a lot of the rest of the public is going to get eventually, once they think that through, perhaps I am an outlier,” he said.
To hear more about King’s take on presidential politics, including a look at the history of Iowa's role in the presidential nominating process, check out this episode of “The Fine Print.”
ABC News’ Ali Dukakis, Tom Thornton, Hank Disselkamp and Gale Marcus contributed to this episode.