It took a broad effort by Iowa’s political elite, Washington leaders, GOP donors and the White House to defeat longtime Rep. Steve King in the state’s primary Tuesday. But if there was one knockout blow, it came in late May, with a TV ad from high-profile evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats.
“Whatever you think of Steve King, it’s clear that he’s no longer effective,” declared Mr. Vander Plaats, in the ad from a super PAC supporting Republican state lawmaker Randy Feenstra, who decisively beat Mr. King. “He can’t deliver for President Trump and he can’t advance our conservative values.”
Insiders agreed the spot packed a punch, summing up years of frustration with the 18-year incumbent and his long history of controversial remarks on race and immigration, a frustration that for many had spilled into outright fury.
Mr. Feenstra’s win—he took nearly 46% of the vote, compared with King’s 36%—culminated more than a year of work, by the candidate and Iowa officials at first but later by national conservative groups and donors. They spent substantially on television advertising and direct mail and honed a message focused more on Mr. King’s lack of clout than his rhetoric.