Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has won the endorsement of Iowa congressman Steve King, an influential conservative in the first-in-the-country presidential caucus state.
Calling Cruz the “answer to my prayers,” King made his support official Monday after months of speculation that Cruz had the inside track for his endorsement. At a news conference in Des Moines, King called Cruz the best candidate to unify the various wings of the Republican Party.
Campaigning in South Carolina on Monday, Cruz said that King’s endorsement is “yet another sign that conservatives continue to unite behind our campaign.”
“There’s no doubt Steve King’s support will have enormous influence,” Cruz added. “There are few, if any, conservatives more trusted in the state of Iowa than Steve King is.”
King’s endorsement was not unexpected. Both conservative firebrands, Cruz and King have closely worked together in Congress and are both vocal opponents of illegal immigration. Before Monday, some King allies were already working in Iowa to elect Cruz, including King’s son, Jeff.
King’s announcement Monday marked a return to the endorsement circuit, which he sat out in 2012 despite being heavily courted by a number of candidates. During the 2008 primary, King backed former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, who finished a distant third in the caucuses.
In Iowa, King’s backing is perhaps the most coveted for candidates like Cruz along with that of Bob Vander Plaats, the head of the social conservative group The Family Leader. The organization is expected to make an endorsement following its Presidential Family Forum in Des Moines, which Cruz is attending.
Abby Livingston contributed reporting from South Carolina.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/11/16/cruz-lands-influential-iowa-congressmans-endorseme/.