Iowa’s doors open to Republicans considering running for White House
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa
Polls were closed in Iowa for less than 48 hours when South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott shook hands and posed for photos with Republicans in eastern Iowa at a country club of Cedar Rapids last week.
Scott, one of many Republicans testing their presidential ambitions, hardly has the state all to himself.
At least a half-dozen GOP presidential candidates are planning visits to Iowa this summer, forays touted as promoting candidates and the state’s Republican organization ahead of the US midterm elections. fall. But really, the trips are about building relationships and learning the political geography of the state set to kick off the campaign for the party’s nomination in 2024.
While potential presidential hopefuls have been dozing in Iowa for more than a year, the next round of visits marks a new phase in the ritual. With Iowa’s June 7 primary over, Republicans eyeing the White House can step up their travels and not worry about meddling in the state’s intraparty rivalries.
“Now that it’s done, it’s all in,” GOP Chairman Jeff Kauffman said. “It’s unfettered.”
Beyond Scott, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is scheduled to travel later this month and plans to campaign with as many Republican candidates for Congress from Iowa as possible in just over two days.
Haley, who is also the former governor of South Carolina, another early voting state on the presidential calendar, plans to begin her trip to eastern Iowa on June 29 with Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. She will also headline a state GOP fundraiser in Dubuque.
Working from the Mississippi Valley westward, she plans to present a fundraiser for Governor Kim Reynolds. Haley will also campaign with Zach Nunn, chosen to face two-term Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne, who is among the most vulnerable members of the House this year. Haley’s always-fluid schedule also includes attending Rep. Randy Feenstra’s annual fundraiser in GOP-heavy western Iowa.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who has visited multiple times in 2021, is scheduled to speak the first week of July at the county GOP dinner in Story County, central Iowa.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has visited Iowa more often than any GOP prospect, is working out the details of a late summer comeback, aides said. , likely scheduled for the Iowa State Fair in August, a lottery for potential contestants.
Pompeo endorsed Nunn before the primary, a nod to their shared military experience, Pompeo aides said.
The plans also come in light of the Republican National Committee’s unanimous decision in April to open the 2024 presidential selection streak in Iowa, an issue still hanging over Iowa Democrats.
In 2020, a smartphone app designed to calculate and report Democratic caucus results failed, causing a phone backlog that prevented the party from reporting final results for nearly a week after the Feb. 3 contest. The Associated Press announced that it was unable to declare a winner after irregularities and inconsistencies marred the results.
Stripped of their automatic special status in April, Iowa Democrats are trying to salvage their top spot with a plan to allow early turnout by mail and streamline the sometimes lengthy process.
With Joe Biden in the White House, Democrats with White House ambitions have largely kept their distance from Iowa.
Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who won the 2016 caucuses and was the last candidate to drop out of the 2020 Democratic contest, was in southeast Iowa on Friday to rally support for the United Auto Workers on strike at a CNH agricultural machinery factory. Sanders’ plans, which also included a stop in southeastern Wisconsin, sparked questions about whether the 80-year-old had a third White House bid in mind. He has said he would not challenge Biden if the president seeks re-election, and Sanders advisers have said there have been no stated changes to his plans.
On the GOP side, Scott’s return wasn’t just timely. This reflected the dual purpose of these early appearances, part introduction and part demonstration of support for the local party.
The 56-year-old sketched his childhood as one influenced by grandparents who helped raise him. Of his grandfather, Scott said, “For a guy who picked cotton in the 1920s, he lived long enough to see me pick a seat in the United States Congress.
Dotted with light contrasts between his Southern home and his Midwestern hosts, Scott wasted no time in noting that he had funneled money from his campaign fundraising account to Republican candidates in Iowa. , including East Iowa GOP House freshman Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson.
“We’re all going to have to stick together,” he told a table of about 10 people eating barbecue sandwiches, as he worked in the dining room ahead of the event.
Even before Scott arrived, former Vice President Mike Pence was on the phone that day with Speaker Kauffman and Iowa Republican National Committee member Steve Scheffler to talk about the primaries and the summer to come, they said.
Pence was planning a summer trip to Iowa, although the date has yet to be confirmed, a senior aide to the former vice president said.
Notably absent from the Iowa travel schedule is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, among the rising National Republican figures most often mentioned in conversations with Iowa party activists this year. DeSantis’ priority is to run for re-election this year, aides said.
“I love DeSantis,” said Linn County Republican Central Committee member Emma Aquino-Nemecek, who attended the Tim Scott event. “Can you imagine if he comes?” He was packing the place.”
DeSantis found himself within earshot of Iowa in September when he helped headline a fundraiser for Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, but he didn’t cross the Missouri River. to hit Iowa soil.
Even more absent from the summer schedule.
Kauffman said he hasn’t heard from Trump’s team. Similarly, Iowa agents for Trump did not return messages.
Still, Trump sent signals to Republicans in Iowa by paying for print ads in the program that aired Saturday at the Republican Party’s state convention in Iowa, as did Scott, Pompeo and Florida Sen. Rick Scott.
Scheffler said non-Trump Republicans might feel emboldened in light of Georgia Republicans’ resounding rejection in last month’s primary election of the former president’s endorsed candidate for governor.
Governor Brian Kemp comfortably won the GOP primary against David Perdue, which the former president endorsed after Trump narrowly lost Georgia in the 2020 presidential election, claiming without proof that the results were invalid due to of endemic electoral fraud.
The speed bump in Trump’s influence in the primary election could signal to other 2024 candidates that the former president is not invincible, Scheffler said.
“If Trump keeps making these endorsements and they go south, like he did in Georgia, who knows?” Scheffler said.