Charles Beeber, 15, of Carroll speaks with U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, in Carroll on Wednesday morning.
Charles Beeber, 15, of Carroll speaks with U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, in Carroll on Wednesday morning.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said Wednesday that he will be meeting with top state and national conservative leaders in South Carolina later this month.

The scheduled "Charleston Meeting," organized by Mallory Factor, an author and history and politics professor at The Citadel, is widely viewed as a key vetting ground for White House aspirants.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon with The Carroll Daily Times Herald and Jefferson Bee & Herald, King acknowledged that he would be spending two or three days in South Carolina with travel plans built around Mallory's meeting. The western Iowa Republican said he's also interacted with Mallory in New York.

"I've had the privilege of making friends all around this country," King said.

King, Iowa's 4th District congressman, stopped short of actually calling his attendance at the South Carolina event an exploratory step in a possible presidential bid, but he largely described it in such terms.

"If you talk to the people who are advertised as candidates for president, they will tell you, 'I'm not,'" King said, referring to the traditional early posturing of politicians with national ambitions. "I'm not pro-actively seeking the presidency. I'm seeing how it works."

When asked directly if would rule out a White House bid, King said, "It's not a part of my strategy. What would one say. We're called to serve, and you never know what that might be. It's already exceeded everything I've ever imagined. So I couldn't say it couldn't happen. But I wouldn't say that it's a plan."

King said he sees the Charleston Meeting as an opportunity to advance a muscular conservative agenda leading up to the 2014 election cycle.

"As far as an ulterior motive, it's to try and strengthen the conservative message nationwide," King said.

South Carolina Republicans have said King is planning a sit-down with them on Aug. 26. South Carolina holds one of the early state primaries for both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.

King has built a national brand as an outspoken, colorful, and often controversial, conservative over his decade of service in Congress.

In June, King, an unbending critic of the immigration reform package passed in the U.S. Senate, organized a rally and lengthy press conference outside of the Capitol. His staunch opposition to a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, and support for stronger border-control measures, have led many political pundits to compare a possible King candidacy to the 2008 run of his friend, former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo. Tancredo focused heavily on immigration in that race.

On Wednesday morning, King spoke to a crowd of about 60 people at an Americans for Prosperity event at Santa Maria Winery and Vineyard in Carroll where he supported a smaller-government, lower-tax platform and took political aim at Waterloo Congressman Bruce Braley, a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

King thus far has turned down an opportunity to seek that Senate seat, which is being vacated by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, at the end of 2014.