Former Vice President Mike Pence stopped to shake hands with passersby despite the heavy rain as he made his way through the Iowa State Fair Friday, Aug. 19. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
There weren’t many Iowans on the concourse as former Vice President Mike Pence made his way around the Iowa State Fair Friday.
Most visitors were staying indoors during an afternoon downpour that hit Des Moines, but Pence and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley braved the weather. They stopped at favorite fair locations for politicians, including the Iowa GOP booth in the Varied Industries building and the Iowa Pork Producers Tent, taking pictures with fairgoers and answering questions.
Pence visited the fair in 2016, when he was on the ticket with former President Donald Trump. But he sidestepped questions Friday about whether his visit meant he was looking at a presidential run himself in 2024.
“After the first of the year, my family and I will do what we’ve always done and reflect and pray on where we might next serve or next contribute,” Pence said. “But today, it’s all about winning back the Congress and re-electing Sen. Chuck Grassley.”
While Pence was officially at the fair with Grassley, other GOP candidates joined the trip around the grounds including U.S. Reps. Randy Feenstra and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, as well as 3rd District candidate Zach Nunn. Pence is also campaigning with Grassley and Nunn outside of the fair, in addition to speaking at events with the Bremer County Republican Party and Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition while he’s in the state.
He’s not the only one hitting the campaign trail alongside Iowa GOP candidates. Pence is one of several high-profile conservatives to visit Iowa this summer. While no top contenders have announced an official campaign yet, many are appearing in the first-in-the-nation caucus state to stump for Republicans competing in the November midterms.
Pence isn’t even the only former Trump administration alumni to visit Iowa ahead of the election. Former U.N. Secretary Nikki Haley campaigned with Nunn in June, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited Iowa three times since the 2020 election.
But Pence’s shot at the White House – like many other Republican hopefuls – may depend on Trump’s 2024 plans. The former president still has a strong base among Republican voters, and he comes out on top of many polls about 2024 Republican presidential candidates. In the July Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, 57% of Iowa Republicans said they hope Trump decides to run for president in 2024.
Pence has said he’s proud of the accomplishments achieved during the Trump presidency, but the pair fell out as Pence allegedly refused to support the president’s demand to block the certification of 2020 election results. Trump’s call to Pence was the subject of one of the Jan. 6 committee hearings, which is investigating the role of the president in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
Pence told reporters Friday that he was disappointed by the “partisan” nature of the committee, but that he would consider a formal summons by the Jan. 6 committee to testify.
“No vice president in American history has been summoned to Capitol Hill to testify before the Congress,” Pence said. “But if they present a formal invitation for the committee, I’ve said we’ll give it due consideration.”
He also said he was troubled by the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida earlier in August, and that he and Grassley called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to reveal what was in the search warrant. The warrant has since been unsealed. But Pence said he disagrees with the backlash against the FBI among some conservatives.
“The calls to defund the FBI are just as wrong as calls to defund the police,” he said.
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