Trump is absent as the Iowa 2024 GOP caucus train begins to roll

Trump is absent as the Iowa 2024 GOP caucus train begins to roll

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) – Nikki Haley The announcement of his presidential campaign in Iowa this week is anew. His fellow South Carolinian Republican, Sen. Tim Scott, he will also be here to decide his political future. And former vice president Mike Pence Influential evangelicals were in the state with Christian activists.

After a slow start, Republican presidential candidates are drifting into leadoff presidential caucus states. Notably absent from the lineup, at least for now, is the former president Donald Trump.

Few of the White House hopefuls have lived up to the lofty expectations Iowa That’s what Trump does. He is a competitive runner-up to staunch social conservatives Ted Cruz In 2016, and went on to carry the state twice by healthy margins as the Republican presidential nominee in the 2016 and 2020 elections.

“It’s really impossible for this guy to try to manage these expectations. They are huge. They’re self-made,” said Luke Martz, a veteran Iowa Republican strategist who helped lead the Mitt Romney 2012 Iowa Caucus Campaign. “I don’t see how anyone saying ‘I’m the guy’ can come in and even finish second.”

Still, in the three months since he announced his bid for a comeback, Trump hasn’t set foot in Iowa, the first place his claim to party supremacy will be tested early next year.

To be sure, Trump has a campaign presence in Iowa. Alex Latcham, who is part of Trump’s national team but is in the state, is working to land a caucus campaign director. But Trump held on A kickoff rally Jan. 28 in South Carolina, where his 2016 primary victory sealed his status as the GOP frontrunner. And he pressed into a speech spot earlier that day at the annual state GOP meeting in New Hampshire, where he won the first-in-the-state primary seven years ago.

Although the caucuses are nearly a year off, they remain the first event on the calendar, and some Iowa GOP activists have noticed Trump’s absence.

“I found it pretty interesting,” Polk County GOP Chairwoman Gloria Mazza said of Trump’s New Hampshire and South Carolina stops. “Because Iowa is first in the nation, doesn’t everyone come here first?”

Meanwhile, others are entering.

Although Pence is not yet a candidate, his advocacy group Advancing American Values ​​launched a campaign last week to oppose school policies similar to those in eastern Iowa districts that have become a flashpoint among conservatives.

Pence was in Cedar Rapids On Wednesday, the nearby Lynn-Mar Community School District rallied opponents of a policy that is at issue in a federal lawsuit. The school board enacted a measure last year that allows transgender students to request a gender support plan to begin transitioning socially at school without their parents’ permission.

The issue, a primary focus of 2024 Republican presidential prospects, is particularly contentious among Christian conservatives, with whom Pence regularly says he identifies. And at Wednesday’s event at a pizza restaurant — it had the feel of an early caucus campaign stop — Pence illustrated his traction.

“We are not co-parenting with the government,” Pence told a cheering audience of more than 100 people. “We trust parents to protect their children, and no one will ever protect America’s children better than their mothers and fathers.”

Haley plans rallies in the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids areas on Monday and Tuesday. Scott, meanwhile, is speaking at an event at Drake University on Wednesday, an evening before the annual Polk County Republican fundraiser in suburban Des Moines to announce his plans for what aides are calling a national audience tour.

Quietly former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinsonwho visited Iowa in January and met last week with legislative Republicans at the Capitol in Des Moines and with Republican activists in western Iowa.

While several candidates, including Trump, were in Iowa last year for the midterms, these first impressions are important at the start of the GOP presidential primary. That’s especially true as many in the GOP wait to see if the Florida governor. Ron DeSantis Proceed with a White House bid.

But as the field of candidates grows in the coming months, Trump still retains a core of Republican support that may be difficult to overcome.

In October, 57% of Iowa Republicans said they expected Trump to decide to run in 2024, according to a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll, while 33% said they expected he wouldn’t and 10% said they weren’t sure.

“Certainly, there’s a group that will support him regardless,” said Iowa Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler.

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