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DES MOINES – Not every politician traveling to Iowa runs for president — but every politician who runs for president travels to Iowa.
So who's making the early rounds as conversations about 2024 begin to take shape?
Former President Donald Trump
Trump has publicly flirted with another run for president in 2024. He's remained active in Iowa, further stoking speculation that he could enter the race. His leadership PAC announced in August it had hired two Iowa operatives, and he planned to make his first visit back to Iowa for one of his signature rallies in October.
Trump easily won Iowa in the 2016 and 2020 general elections, and he remains popular among many Republicans here.
Former Vice President Mike Pence
The former vice president traveled to Iowa often while he was in office to tout the Trump administration's policy agenda. He made his first return since losing the 2020 general election in July 2021 when he attended the Family Leadership Summit, a gathering of Christian conservatives and evangelicals. He also headlined an event for U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra in Iowa's heavily conservative 4th Congressional District, which covers the northwest corner of the state.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Pompeo attended a series of events across the state in March, and he spoke at the Family Leadership Summit in July 2020 and July 2021. During his recent stops, he's made a point of hinting slyly at the subtext of his visits.
“My wife Susan was born in Iowa City, but she was raised in Wichita. She spent her summers at Coralville and Strawberry Point,” he said at the Family Leadership Summit. “So that's why I'm back, I don't know why some of these other folks coming back now. I can't figure it out.”
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley
Haley, who is also the former governor of South Carolina, headlined an event for the Republican Party of Iowa in suburban Des Moines in June. She also attended a slew of other events on behalf of local party operations and Iowa elected officials. Haley has acknowledged the possibility of a presidential campaign, though she has said she would not run if former Republican President Donald Trump sought the office.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida
Rubio, who came in third place during Iowa's 2016 GOP caucuses, returned for events in Mason City and Ames in August. He told reporters he’s focused on helping the friends he made in the first-in-the-nation caucus state while gearing up for his own reelection Senate bid.
“Having done this once, there's no purpose of being coy about it, I'm running for reelection in Florida to serve in the United States Senate,” he said. “I'm not having any conversations about running for president, but I have friends here.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas
Cruz leveraged a sophisticated ground game and widespread evangelical support to defeat Trump and win Iowa's 2016 GOP caucuses. He told Newsmax in July that he is "certainly looking at" running for president again in 2024.
He campaigned on behalf of U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst in October 2020, and he returned to headline a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson as she prepares to run for reelection in 2022.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas
Cotton has been raising Iowa eyebrows since 2016 when he stopped to meet with the Iowa delegation at that year's Republican National Convention. The senator has been a regular visitor since, making appearances on behalf of elected officials like U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.
Brianne Pfannenstiel is the chief politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at email@example.com or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Republicans offer 2024 presidential election hints with Iowa visits