GOP presidential candidates head to Iowa as party waits for more to join field

By: - March 7, 2023 2:20 pm

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley held her first Iowa event as a presidential candidate at Royal Flooring in Urbandale Monday, Feb. 20. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

With more candidates joining the race to take on President Joe Biden in the upcoming election, presidential hopefuls, both announced and considering, are starting their time on the Iowa caucus trail this month

The beginning months on the 2024 caucus trail has not been quite as busy as 2020, when several Democratic presidential candidates announced their campaigns in late January or early February and started touring the state. But multiple potential Republican candidates are making stops in the coming weeks, and Iowa GOP groups are hoping to bring big names to events hosted this spring.

Of Iowa’s visitors, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former President Donald Trump have officially announced their presidential bids. Haley made campaign stops as an official presidential candidate shortly after her 2024 announcement. Trump last appeared in Iowa with Gov. Kim Reynolds and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley in Sioux City ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, days before he announced he was running again for president.

Both candidates will be back in Iowa in the coming days. Trump is set to hold an event March 13 in Davenport on education policy. Trump’s policy platform calls for giving parents more control over their children’s education by making curriculum more accessible, and for the removal of materials that include “patently dishonest and activist-driven information about the U.S. and our founding.”

Haley has announced three upcoming events in Iowa. She will hold town halls in Council Bluffs and Nevada Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday morning, she and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst will talk about foreign policy at a forum hosted by The Bastion Institute at the Horizon Event Center in Clive.

Haley worked in Trump’s administration and said he is a friend, but told Iowans “we need to leave the status quo in the past.”

While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet announced his plans for 2024, he’ll be in Iowa Friday. His events in Davenport and Des Moines will be officially for promoting his new book, “The Courage to be Free: Florida’s Blueprint For America’s Revival,” and talking about how his governing approach in Florida could apply to the federal government.

Reynolds said in her inaugural address that she’s happy to welcome presidential candidates to Iowa. She will appear with DeSantis at both events, and has spoken alongside candidates and other national Republicans including Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott during their February visits. Other February visits included a rally hosted by former Vice President Mike Pence about the Linn-Mar Community School District’s gender affirmation policy, and an event where Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake spoke about taking her election challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Vivek Ramaswamy, another announced candidate, also made caucus trail stops in February, sharing his “anti-woke” campaign message with Iowans.

The list of Republican 2024 candidates could get longer. Potential candidates, including Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who spoke with Iowa lawmakers in January, and U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who made Iowa trips ahead of the midterms, have not yet announced whether they plan to make a bid.

Other GOP politicians who visited Iowa in 2022 have already opted out: U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan have said they don’t plan to run for president.

Iowa Republicans are expecting to see more candidates headed to Iowa in the coming months. The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition announced a long list of invited guests to its April 22 event, including potential candidates like Hutchinson and Cruz as well as Trump, Pence and Haley.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.