Speculation started as soon as word came that Rep. Steve King's August travel schedule was taking him to the early presidential primary state of South Carolina, where he would meet with conservative activists.
“Steve King for President?” asked the Washington Post headline.
The conservative Republican firebrand from northwest Iowa only added fuel to the fire when he then tweeted a photo of himself in Dixville Notch. He was standing next to a sign touting that New Hampshire village's tradition of casting the first votes in each general election for president.
But don't order those King 2016 campaign buttons just yet.
In an interview with The World-Herald, King downplayed the idea of launching his own run for the White House.
“It's kind of like anything that might potentially be an option. You don't want to rule it out — whatever the odds might be of moving in that direction — but it's not what I think about when I go to bed at night or when I get up in the morning,” King said.
Instead, King said, his recent travels reflect an interest in nurturing the relationships between the early nominating states and a desire to play a role in the selection of the Republican Party's next standard-bearer.
That includes making all of the potential candidates feel welcome in Iowa and helping them get face time with caucus voters.
Jim Mowrer, a Democrat bidding to unseat King from Iowa's 4th District seat, has criticized the congressman's trips to other states, saying that the Republican should be more focused on representing Iowa.
But King has never been one to apologize for his interest in national politics.
He has established his own provocative conservative brand by delivering lengthy speeches on the House floor after the formal business of the day is completed and making frequent appearances on cable television and talk radio, said Dennis Goldford, a political scientist at Drake University.
That dovetails with his role in the presidential nominating process.
“He's got a certain national name and national prominence out there, and this allows him to use that to talk about his particular issues,” Goldford said.
Still, the idea of President Steve King remains a long shot, Goldford said. Just consider that the last House member to capture the Oval Office was James Garfield — in 1880.
Goldford also was skeptical that King could be a GOP kingmaker.
Goldford said it's difficult for anyone in modern politics to really play that role, although King has enough clout to provide a candidate some help.
“In any close election, a feather on the scale makes a difference. ... If he can motivate and activate the more populist elements of the Republican base he can certainly contribute to someone's political success,” Goldford said.
In the 2008 race, King threw his support behind Fred Thompson early in the process only to see the former senator's campaign fizzle. King was more cautious in the most recent cycle, although he went pheasant hunting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, plans to be in Iowa later this fall, and King confirmed Thursday that the Tea Party favorite will join him for a pheasant hunt and luncheon on Oct. 26.
King wasn't ready to endorse Cruz, or anyone else, at this early stage. But he did list a few of the things that he is looking for in the next leader of the free world.
“I certainly want a president that has a good grasp on foreign policy and one who has an economic approach that has a means to put the Keynesian genie back in the bottle and someone who is a full-spectrum constitutional conservative that is pro-life and pro-family who has a deep respect for the pillars of American exceptionalism,” King said.
And if he ever were to run for president, how does King rate his own chances?
“There's 316 million people in this country, so you know, they'd be better than most,” King said.