Iowans react to Pence visit and possible 2024 presidential bid
WAVERLY — Former Vice President Mike Pence told Waverly on Saturday he’s confident the Iowans will “think carefully about the opportunity we have to bring our country back” as they weigh in with their first caucus picks from the country in 2024.
It was a subtle nod to a possible run for the White House as Pence was on the ground in Iowa this week – his fourth visit since losing the 2020 election.
“Iowa always plays an outsized role in the fate of the nation,” Pence said at the Bremer County Republicans’ annual Summer Grill and Chill event. “From Hoosier State, we have watched from afar all my life the people of Iowa doing their job making sure we choose the right leadership at the right time. And I have every confidence when that time comes, you will do it again.
Iowa Republicans will play a huge role in helping determine the direction of the national party in 2024, taking the first vote on a field of candidates that could include former President Donald Trump.
Iowa voted twice for Trump in its 2016 and 2020 general election campaigns, and the Des Moines Register’s Iowa poll suggests Republicans across the state continue to broadly support the former president. According to a July poll, a majority of Republicans in Iowa – 57% – said they hope Trump will decide to run for president in 2024. Another 33% hope he doesn’t and 10 % are not sure.
After:Iowa Poll: Should Trump run for president in 2024? Most Iowa Republicans Say Yes
But the former vice president has broken with Trump since refusing to help him overturn the 2020 election results.
If Pence makes his own bid for the White House, he will have to navigate a tenuous political landscape — drawing distinctions with the former president without alienating those who still view him favorably.
“I just want someone with scruples,” said Grace Fails, who lives near Waverly and attended the Bremer County event on Saturday. “I just believe that people should be true to what they believe in and should be honest with people, and a lot of them aren’t.”
She said Democratic President Joe Biden had not been honest with the American people. She said she believes Trump “made some very serious mistakes” while improving the direction of the country as a whole.
“I would rather see someone else” run for president, she said of Trump. “And yet, if he shows up and if he is the choice, I would vote for him. Because I think he did a lot of good while he was there. And you can just see how things have fallen apart since he left.
Pence played down the 2024 aspect of his visit, saying his goal was to help Republicans retake Congress in 2022.
“After the first of the year, my family and I will do as we always have,” he told reporters on Friday. “And that’s thinking and praying about where we might next serve or where we might next contribute. But today is about winning back Congress and re-electing Senator Chuck Grassley.”
But some Iowans were clearly looking forward to the caucuses.
“It was tough to get him,” Bremer County Republican Party Chairman John Baber said as he introduced Pence. “But once we did, I was thrilled to have – I’ll say it – our next President of the United States is here, Mike Pence.”
After the event, Baber said he needed to present a neutral front as party chairman, and he reached out to a number of other potential candidates to speak at county events.
“But wouldn’t it be great to have a Midwestern governor for a change?” he said.
In addition to the Bremer County event, Pence also attended a fundraiser for U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and an event for the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition. On Friday, he campaigned at the Iowa State Fair amid a steady downpour.
“I’m almost completely done with the State Fair,” he joked on Saturday.
After:Mike Pence meets fans, Iowa State Fair downpour as he campaigns for Republicans
Pence touted the policies of the “Trump-Pence administration” and denounced the state of the southern border, inflation, crime rates, gas prices and the national debt.
“Democrats have literally poured gasoline on a raging fire that is burning the American economy,” he said.
Other Republicans who could target the White House in 2024 have also flooded the state. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz campaigned with Grassley this week, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan spilled pork chops at the State Fair. US Senator Tim Scott will campaign with US Representative Ashley Hinson later this month.