Speaking of Steve King, the wacky nativist from Storm Lake, we learn from Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register that he’s planning to do something he really hasn’t done before: play a big role in the outcome of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. Yeah, he endorsed Fred Thompson in 2008, but very late in the day, and even his close friendship with Michele Bachmann didn’t get him to make a bad investment in her presidential ambitions. This time he’s planning on hosting what will probably be the first big mandatory-attendance candidate event, just over two months from now:

The inaugural Iowa Freedom Summit will be in Des Moines on Saturday, Jan. 24, more than a year from the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. King’s co-host is Citizens United, a conservative organization best known for influencing campaign finance in this country.

Three Republicans who are seriously weighing 2016 presidential bids are already booked as headline speakers for the summit, which will have no cost to attend: Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

Every Republican who’s thinking about a White House bid has been invited, King told the Register.

And I betcha nearly all of them show up to kiss King’s ring and subject themselves to an ideological vetting (he did one of those in 2012 down in South Carolina in conjuction with Jim DeMint). He says he will definitely endorse a candidate this year, and he’s looking for “a full-spectrum Constitutional Conservative.” That’s code for anti-choice extremism, a Cut-Cap-Balance constitutional amendment aimed at permanently shrinking the federal government, hostility to “government schools,” a Cold and if possible Hot War against entitlements (beginning with total repeal of Obamacare), uncompromising opposition to any and all environmental regulations, truculent Islamophobia abroad and at home, and of course, deporting-em-all on immigration. That’s basically Ted Cruz, but King like to put his money on winners, so we’ll see; what King really wants is a stampede to the right that would make even 2012’s stampede to the right look like fairground ride.

If the “pragmatic GOP is moving to the center” narrative hasn’t already died by January 24, I’m pretty sure you’ll hear the death rattle all the way from Des Moines wherever you are.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.