Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was flipping pork chops and shaking hands at the Iowa State Fair Thursday, a key stop on the Iowa caucus campaign trail, amid speculation he will run for president in 2024.
Hogan, a Republican who was elected twice to lead the blue state of Maryland, has been answering questions about whether he will run for president since he visited Iowa in 2019 as vice chair of the National Governor's Association.
"I was surprised that you were asking me that way back then, but now more people seem to be," he said in an interview with the Des Moines Register. "I've said that I really am focused on finishing out my term as governor until next January. But you know, I care about country and I care about our party and I definitely want to be a voice and I want to play some role in the future. Exactly what that is, I'm not quite sure."
Although Hogan, who is term limited, downplayed the significance of his Iowa visit, he acknowledged the importance the state will play in the 2024 nomination process.
He chose to roll out two major policy proposals — one to combat inflation and another to tackle rising crime rates — in New Hampshire and in Iowa.
"It didn't get past me that I rolled out the two plans in both New Hampshire and Iowa," he said. "I realize the important role that both of those states play in the process. And so, you know, I think getting out to talk to the people in those two states that have such an impact on on what the decisions about who's going to be running in the future is, I think, a smart idea."
Hogan said he planned to hold a roundtable discussion with U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra, of Iowa's 4th Congressional District, and first responders to talk about his crime plan. He also planned to meet with Gov. Kim Reynolds and other Republicans at the fair.
The goal, he said, is to hear from Iowans about the issues that are on their minds.
Hogan has been one of the GOP's more outspoken critics of former Republican President Donald Trump — a figure who is still well regarded among Iowa Republicans, according to the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. In July, the poll found that 57% of Iowa Republicans hope Trump decides to run for president in 2024. Another 33% hope he does not, and 10% are not sure.
Kelly Schulz, Hogan's pick to succeed him as governor, lost in a primary battle last month to Dan Cox, a far-right state legislator whom Trump had endorsed. The election was viewed by many as a proxy battle between Hogan and Trump as both consider possible White House runs in 2024.
But even if Trump runs again, Hogan argued that it's healthy for the party to consider a range of voices and ideas as they think about how to move forward.
"I don't think it's smart for Republicans to just focus on relitigating the 2020 election," he said. "I think we have to convince voters that we've got the right ideas and that they should put their trust in our hands that we can take this country in a different direction. And I think it's really healthy and important for us to have that dialogue and have multiple voices, who put forth some ideas."
Although national Democrats are considering booting Iowa from its place at the front of the presidential nominating calendar, Republicans will continue to hold their traditional first-in-the-nation caucuses in 2024.
"The Democrats are walking away from Iowa. It is a very clear signal," Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel told reporters Wednesday at the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines. "They do not want to come here anymore. And Republicans have re-upped our commitment to your great state."
Iowa Democratic Party leaders have said they will continue to fight to hold onto their own first-in-the-nation status.
Brianne Pfannenstiel is the chief politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Gov. Larry Hogan visits Iowa State Fair to discuss 2024 election