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It’s Already 2024 In Iowa — Minus Trump


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — When the chair of the Iowa Republican Party asked Sen. Tim Scott on Thursday to “take us on a bit journey of what you’re dreaming straight away,” a gap for him to tease something newsy about his political future, Scott said it was a “tough” but “good” query.

“President!” someone within the audience shouted.

“Of my homeowners’ association?” Scott replied.

Scott didn’t admit as much to Republicans who showed as much as see him at a swanky country club in Iowa’s second-largest city — but, no, he wasn’t there to discuss running for president of his HOA.

The South Carolina senator is considered one of nearly a dozen Republicans who’re starting to quietly lay the groundwork for presidential campaigns in 2024 with one major, unpredictable caveat: Donald Trump.

Scott didn’t mention Trump once while headlining the GOP fundraiser this week with Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa. But the previous president has hinted he might run again in two years, complicating matters for loyalists like Scott who’re effectively stuck in limbo until Trump makes up his mind. Those Republicans include Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Rick Scott of Florida.

The developing 2024 field began planting seeds in Iowa back in 2021 — and in some cases earlier. Cruz is a returning favorite, having won the 2016 caucuses against Trump.

Something all of them appear to have in common now: None of them has a nasty word — or really any words — to say about Trump, in response to Jeff Kaufmann, chair of the Iowa Republican Party, which helps orchestrate the GOP’s first presidential nominating contest.

“I’ve yet to have an individual are available here that has even subtly hinted something negative about Trump,” Kaufmann told reporters after the Tim Scott event. “And when there are disagreements, it’s put in a way that these are disagreements of the family. I believed possibly I may need a bit more of that backwards and forwards.”

As an alternative, the party’s dignitaries are sticking to issues like immigration and the economy which might be still popular with the Republican base.

“In the following election, I don’t think you will notice anyone moving away from [Trump’s] policies,” Kaufmann said. “You heard Sen. Scott — he didn’t mention the president’s name, but he talked concerning the policies.”

“I’ve yet to have an individual are available here that has even subtly hinted something negative about Trump.”

– Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann

If there’s a gap for a ‘Never Trump’ Republican to run in 2024, it would only be a sliver, if that. The small sample size of committed GOP activists on the Scott event didn’t seem more likely to embrace a Trump antagonist like Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) or Adam Kinzinger (R-Ailing.), who’re each considering how you can leverage their national profiles since voting to question Trump in 2021.

“I might definitely support [Trump],” said Shelley Nelson, a retiree who was concerned concerning the economy and gas prices. “I would like to see [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis run. He could be my No. 1 selection in 2024. But when it’s Trump, sure. I mean, I really like Trump’s policies. Anybody’s personality can rub you incorrect, however the policies worked great.”

Scott, the Senate’s only Black Republican, hooked the group in Cedar Rapids together with his inspiring life story of being raised by his grandparents following his parents’ divorce.

“My grandfather spent each morning coming to the kitchen table with me and my brother and skim the newspaper cover to cover,” Scott, 56, recalled. “I at all times wondered what was so necessary within the newspaper that this man would read it every single day for half-hour. It was about 15 years later once I learned that my grandfather actually never learned to read, but what he had learned to do was set the instance for each of his grandkids to grasp the facility of being informed and being educated.”

Scott, a senator since 2013 and a rising star within the Republican Party, previewed what could be ahead on the campaign trail: “One side desires to measure your success and your importance by how much melanin you will have in your skin. I prefer to measure our success and our significance by the values we’re willing to defend.”

An independent GOP adviser within the audience said that Trump’s unpredictable timing could muddy things even for well-meaning Republicans in the sphere. “The individuals who announce before him, what do they do after?” that person asked.

“I feel persons are going to wish to keep their powder dry for so long as they will to see what the sphere looks like,” said David Kochel, a veteran GOP strategist in Iowa. “It’s going to be the very best excuse on the earth for people to say, ’Thanks for calling, Sen. Cruz, but we’re not able to make a commitment yet.’”

Scott slipped out of the event early Thursday to catch a flight but promised he could be back. Haley is the following Republican on tap to headline a fundraiser for the Iowa GOP later this month.

Althea Hasse, a homemaker from outside Cedar Rapids, said she liked how Scott appeared “direct and honest … he looks as if a spiritual guy, and we want religious people.”

Ernst, who joined the Senate two years after Scott, called him “considered one of my best friends in america Senate” and “the embodiment of the American dream.”

If Trump does run again, he wouldn’t necessarily enjoy the benefits of incumbency, like having the party’s early backing.

“Ultimately, that query of incumbency goes to be as much as the voters,” Kaufmann said. “I’ve stated very publicly that that is going to be an open, neutral playing field.

“The chairman of the party won’t be endorsing anyone. And, quite frankly, I hope nobody on my state central committee will endorse anyone either.”

Pence, who has quietly broken with Trump, was the last Republican to call Kaufmann personally, after Iowa’s primary this week. “He said he’s going to be back within the state and to maintain him in mind if there’s any events that [he] may also help with,” Kaufmann said.

Notably, the party chair said that Trump’s people haven’t reached out yet.

“All of this relies on the 700-pound elephant within the room and what he’s going to do,” Kaufmann said. “I don’t think we’re going to get significant guidance on that until after 2022.”

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