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Iowa doors open to Republicans eyeing the White House

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Iowa polling stations were closed for less than 48 hours when South Carolina Senator Tim Scott shook hands and posed for photos with Republicans from eastern Iowa at a Cedar Rapids country club last week.

Scott, one of the many Republicans testing their presidential aspirations, rarely has the state to himself.

At least a half-dozen GOP presidential candidates are planning visits to Iowa this summer, forays to be advertised to promote candidates and the state’s Republican organization ahead of the fall midterm elections. But in reality Travel is about building relationships and learning about political geography in the state set to launch the campaign for the party’s 2024 nomination.

As potential presidential candidates have been immersing themselves in Iowa for more than a year, the next round of visits marks a new phase in the ritual. With the Iowa primary on June 7th out of the way, Republicans eyeing the White House can step up their journey and not worry about entering the state’s intrapartisan rivalries.

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“Now that it’s done, it’s complete,” said state GOP chairman Jeff Kauffman. “It’s unrestricted.”

Alongside Scott, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is expected later this month and plans to run with as many Republican congressional candidates 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 in eastern Iowa on June 29 with first-term congressman Mariannette Miller-Meeks. She will also lead a state GOP fundraiser in Dubuque.

She works west from the Mississippi Valley planning a keynote fundraiser for Gov. Kim Reynolds. Haley will also run with Zach Nunn, who was selected to run against two-year Democratic Representative Cindy Axne, who is among the most vulnerable members of the House of Representatives this year. Haley’s still-flowing schedule also includes attending Rep. Randy Feenstra’s annual fundraiser in GOP-heavy western Iowa.

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Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who visited several times in 2021, is scheduled to speak at the county GOP dinner in Story County, central Iowa, in the first week of July.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has visited Iowa more times than any GOP prospect, is working out details for a return in late summer, aides said, likely coordinated for August’s Iowa State Fair, a famous draw for potential candidates.

Pompeo supported Nunn before the primary, a nod to their shared military experience, Pompeo aides said.

The plans also come amid the Republican National Committee’s unanimous decision in April to open the 2024 presidential election in Iowa. a question that still hovers over Iowa Democrats.

In 2020, a smartphone app used to calculate and report Democratic faction results failed, resulting in a phone backlog that prevented the party from reporting final results for nearly a week after the February 3 contest. The Associated Press said it was unable to announce a winner after irregularities and inconsistencies marred the results.

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Iowa Democrats, who were stripped of their automatic special status in April, are trying to save their starting spot with a plan that allows for early entry by mail and streamlines the sometimes time-consuming process.

With Joe Biden in the White House, Democrats with White House ambitions have largely stayed away from Iowa.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who won the 2016 caucuses and was the last candidate to be eliminated from the 2020 Democratic contest, was in southeastern Iowa on Friday to rally support for United Auto Workers working at a farm equipment plant of CNH went on strike. Sanders’ plans, which included a stop in southeastern Wisconsin, prompted questions about whether the 80-year-old has a third White House run in mind. He has said he would not challenge Biden if the president seeks re-election, and Sanders advisers said there have been no stated changes in his plans.

On the GOP side, Scott’s return wasn’t just timely. It reflected the dual aims of these early performances, part introduction and part demonstration of support for the local party.

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The 56-year-old outlined his childhood as one influenced by grandparents who raised him. Scott said of his grandfather, “For a man picking cotton in the 1920s, he lived long enough to watch me pick a seat in the United States Congress.”

Sprinkled with light-hearted contrasts of his Southern homeland and Midwestern hosts, Scott wasted no time either in noting that he had donated money from his campaign fundraising account to Republican candidates in Iowa, including the targeted GOP House freshmen in East Iowa, Miller-Meeks and Ashley Hinson.

“We’ve all got to pull ourselves together,” he said to a table of about 10 barbecue sandwiches as he worked in the dining room ahead of the event.

That day, prior to Scott’s arrival, former Vice President Mike Pence was on the phone with Chairman Kauffman and Iowa’s Republican National Committee member Steve Scheffler to discuss the primary and the upcoming summer, they said.

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Pence was planning a summer trip to Iowa, although the date had not yet been confirmed, a senior adviser to the former vice president said.

Notably absent from the Iowa itinerary is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, one of the most-cited rising national Republicans in conversations with Iowa party activists this year. DeSantis’ priority is running for re-election this year, aides said.

“I love DeSantis,” said Emma Aquino-Nemecek, a member of the Linn County Republican Central Committee who attended Tim Scott’s event. “Can you imagine when he comes? He would grab the place.”

DeSantis came within shouting distance of Iowa in September when he helped lead a fundraiser for Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, but he didn’t cross the Missouri River to touch Iowa soil.

Even more notably absent from the summer program so far is former President Donald Trump, who staged one massive rally in Des Moines last year at the Iowa State Fairgroundand has endorsed several Iowa Republicans.

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Kauffman said he hadn’t heard from Trump’s team. Likewise, Iowa staffers have not returned messages for Trump.

Still, Trump sent signals to Iowa Republicans by paying for print ads in the program, which was circulated at the Iowa Republican Party state convention on Saturday, as did Florida’s Scott, Pompeo and Senator Rick Scott.

Scheffler said non-Trump Republicans may feel encouraged by Georgia Republicans’ resounding rejection of the former president-backed gubernatorial nominee in last month’s primary.

Governor Brian Kemp comfortably won the GOP primary over David Perduewhich the former president endorsed after Trump narrowly lost Georgia in the 2020 presidential election, claiming without evidence that the results were invalid due to rampant voter fraud.

The speed bump for Trump’s influence in the primaries could signal other interested parties for 2024 that the former president is not invincible, Scheffler said.

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“If Trump keeps making these endorsements and they go south like he did in Georgia, who knows?” Scheffler said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/18/iowa-doors-swing-open-for-republicans-eyeing-white-house-run/ Iowa doors open to Republicans eyeing the White House

Sarah Y. Kim

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