In Iowa, it’s never too early for a presidential campaign.
That much has been clear in 2021 as potential Republican candidates have been laying the groundwork in Iowa for possible campaigns, even while more than half of their base continues to mistakenly believe their party’s candidate was the rightful winner of the last one.
The 2024 Iowa caucuses are more than two-and-a-half years away, and yet here were Nikki Haley and Tom Cotton in Iowa this past week. And while this wonderful state has many terrific experiences to offer, Haley and Cotton were not here to see the sights or hit the Pizza Ranch buffet.
Haley, a former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Cotton, a U.S. senator from Arkansas, both appeared at state party fundraisers this past week: Haley in West Des Moines and Cotton in Sioux Center.
And the early-worn trail will remain busy; later this month, former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem — each possible 2024 Republican presidential candidates — are scheduled to appear at an event hosted by the Iowa faith-based organization The Family Leader.
None of these Republicans will say they’re running for president, and there’s no compelling reason they should this far out. As noted earlier, the caucuses are still more than 30 months away. We’re almost two full years away from when most presidential candidates make their official announcements. But there’s another reason potential Republican candidates continue to hold their water: former President Donald Trump.
Trump has not yet said whether he plans to run again in 2024. He certainly acts like a candidate-in-the-making: he regularly offers public statements on the political news of the day and is holding campaign-style rallies.
And if Trump does decide to run again, the Republican field of candidates will shrink significantly. Support for the former president remains strong among GOP voters: 66% said they would like to see him run in 2024 in a recent Quinnipiac University poll.
(Quick aside: Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that in the same poll, 66% of Republicans said they believe President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory was not legitimate. That’s some noteworthy symmetry.)
In other words, if Trump runs, the field, at the least, gets thinner. As things currently stand, it’s difficult to envision any candidate defeating Trump in a Republican primary.
But Trump may not run, and that’s why Haley, Cotton, Pence, Pompeo, Noem and others — if Trump does not run, there will be many others — have been making their way to Iowa. And they will continue to do so. When the calendar flips to 2022, those folks will make their way to Iowa — out of nothing more than the pure goodness of their hearts, wink wink — to help Republican candidates here on the midterm campaign trail. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley are going to have an awful lot of helpful friends next year.
It’s worth noting that, while she was here, Haley also took some of her time to help Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who also faces a re-election campaign next cycle.
It is so early. We have no earthly business talking about presidential campaigns right now. But this is Iowa. Yes, it is early. But it’s never too early.
— Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.