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Iowa Republicans are looking for an alternative to Trump for 2024

DES MOINES, Iowa NThe first 100 Iowans gathered in the third-floor reading room of Drake University’s Cowles Library on Wednesday, gathering in the small study space to learn more about prospective 2024 candidate Tim Scott (R-SC ).

Many who attended Scott’s speech said they were not entirely familiar with his background or experience, while others told the Washington Examiner they were simply taking the opportunity to hear a potential presidential candidate speak.

Several attendees described the event as an opportunity to seek alternatives to former President Donald Trump as the GOP’s 2024 primary field begins to take shape.


“I’m very open-minded. I used to be a registered Republican, now I’m an independent, and that’s it [want to] see who I align with the most,” said Jennifer Pittham, a Drake University graduate who attended the event Wednesday. “I’m just trying to shop around and see who I like the most.”

Although Scott has yet to declare himself a presidential candidate, the South Carolina senator has fueled speculation by embarking on a national listening tour, a move that followed the launch of his Opportunity Matters Fund PAC at the end of last year.

Scott, who is the only black Republican in the Senate, is trying to position himself as a “mainstream” conservative in what could end up being a crowded Republican primary in 2024. However, he has made a habit of working in the background since de reached the upper house in 2013, possibly losing the national name recognition enjoyed by some of its potential rivals.

“I’m interested in Tim Scott as a candidate. I identify more as a libertarian, but I think he could definitely be a good choice,” said Drake University student John Grant. “I’m just scouting candidates that you’re not [see] a lot of attention in the media.”

The comment came during Scott’s second stop on his national “Faith in America” ​​listening tour, as the South Carolina senator attends several campaign-style events in central Iowa. His trip coincides with several other potential GOP candidates heading to the Hawk’s Eye state as the primary cycle begins to ramp up.

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made her first trip to Iowa on Monday, holding a campaign event just a week after she announced her bid for the White House. Haley, like Scott, has called for a new brand of leadership, presenting herself as the best candidate to help lead the country beyond “division and distraction.”

“We are ready. Ready to move past the outdated ideas and faded names of the past. And we are more than ready for a new generation to lead us into the future,” Haley said in her campaign announcement video.

The remarks echo Scott’s speech Wednesday in Des Moines, where he denounced Democratic politicians who feed “the empty calories of anger to people who are dying for hope.”

Mike Pence has also been making the rounds in Iowa, speaking at an event with Advancing American Freedom last week. Although he has not yet declared his intention to run, Pence positions himself as a principled conservative.

The former vice president parted ways with Trump, who still today maintains unfounded allegations of voter fraud, after he decided not to obstruct the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

The bombastic former president continues to have strong support from the base of the Republican Party, and shedding his grip on the GOP could prove difficult in 2024, especially if the primary field fills out.

Current polls show Trump leading the field of potential candidates, with roughly 50% of Republican voters saying they would vote for him in 2024, according to Morning Consult. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) ranks second with 30 percent support, with Haley and Pence tied at 6 percent.

Trump, who announced his third presidential bid three months ago, has not yet made his way to the state, considered important for 2024 hopefuls as it hosts the first caucuses of the primary cycle, at least for to the GOP this year. Trump has a mixed record in Iowa. He narrowly lost the caucuses in 2016 to then-candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX), only to win the general election that same year. He won both the caucuses and the general election there in 2020.

While Trump is notably absent from the state, he nonetheless ramped up his operation there on Monday, with his campaign naming Marshall Moreau as state campaign manager. In 2022, Moreau managed the candidacy of Republican Attorney General Brenna Bird, who defeated Democratic incumbent Tom Miller.

Trump also has one of his national campaign team members, Alex Latcham, based in Iowa.

Only Trump, Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy have announced their White House bids, but several others are expected to follow in the coming months.

Some voters the Washington Examiner spoke with expressed openness to a larger primary pool.


“I think a large pool of candidates would be interesting,” Grant said. “It wouldn’t be good or bad because it would split the vote, probably between the two front-runners like DeSantis and Trump. So it would be kind of interesting, interesting to see if, like, a dark horse actually won because the vote was split.”

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