Trump tiptoes around teasing 2024 run during Iowa rally

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DES MOINES, IOWA – Former President Trump‘s return this weekend to Iowa, the state where caucuses for half a century have kicked off the presidential nominating calendar, sparked more speculation that the former president will launch a 2024 bid to try and return to the White House.

While the former president for months has repeatedly teased another White House run, Trump avoided such language during a nearly two-hour speech in front of a large crowd of supporters at a Saturday evening rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

TRUMP RETURNS TO IOWA TO SUPPORT 2022 REPUBLICANS, BUT TRIP LAYS DOWN 2024 MARKER

While Trump vowed to “take back America,” he didn’t make any specific flirtations about launching another presidential bid.

Rather than directly discuss 2024, he spent much of his time re-litigating his 2020 election defeat to now-President Biden.

Former President Trump addresses a large crowd of supporters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Des Moines, Iowa
(Fox News )

But Trump did endorse keeping Iowa’s position as the lead-off state in the presidential primaries and caucuses as he pointed to his 8-point victory in the Hawkeye State in last November’s general election.

“You proved why Iowa should continue to vote first in the nation, that’s right. First in the nation,” Trump said. “It all started right here and we’re going to keep it here, number one.”

Iowa was once a key battleground state, but Trump comfortably won it during his 2016 and 2020 campaigns.

He arrived in the Hawkeye State days after scoring his best favorable ratings ever in the Des Moines Register poll, which is considered the gold standard in this neck of the woods.

Trump touted the poll, saying “we’re at the highest we’ve ever been.”

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And more proof of his immense clout in the first caucus state – many of the state’s top Republican leaders – including Gov. Kim Reynolds, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Reps. Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and state GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann – all spoke ahead of the president. Trump called Grassley back to the podium an hour into his speech, to endorse the 88-year old senator’s 2022 reelection and teased that an endorsement of Reynolds – who next year is seeking a second term as governor – is in the works.

Scott N.H. trip to help 2022 Republicans generates 2024 buzz

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina spent this weekend in New Hampshire, to help raise money for fellow Republicans in a key battleground state where the GOP aims to flip a Senate and House seat from blue to red in next year’s midterms.

But for Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate and a rising star in the GOP, the two-day swing through the state that for a century has held the first primary in the presidential nominating calendar sparked more speculation about his potential national ambitions.

Scott keynoted a New Hampshire Republican State Committee fundraising dinner in Manchester on Friday night. On Saturday the senator headlined a picnic and joint fundraiser for the Merrimack County and Concord GOP committees.

Scott grabbed national attention earlier this year when he gave a well-received GOP response to President Biden‘s prime time address to a joint session of Congress, and he grabbed headlines by hauling in an eye-popping $9.6 million during the April-June second quarter of fundraising for his 2022 Senate reelection.

SEN. TIM SCOTT TRIP TO NEW HAMPSHIRE SPARKS MORE 2024 SPECULATION

He also led his party in unsuccessful negotiations with congressional Democrats on a major police reform bill. In his Friday night speech, Scott urged fellow Republicans to show strong support for law enforcement, saying “it’s up to us to stand up for the men and women in blue when others won’t.”

He also joined national Republicans in urging GOP Gov. Chris Sununu to challenge Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan next year, saying “Sen. Chris Sununu has a ring to it.”

Haley disagrees with Trump on 2020 election

Former Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina calls Trump a friend, but disagrees with the former president’s unfounded claims that the 2020 election was “rigged” and “stolen” from him.

Haley, who served as America’s ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump administration, said in an interview this past week with the Wall Street Journal that “there was fraud in the election, but I don’t think that the numbers were so big that it swayed the vote in the wrong direction.”

Haley, who headlined a major Iowa GOP fundraising dinner in June and whom political pundits view as a potential 2024 Republican White House hopeful, said in an interview with the AP in April that “I would not run if President Trump ran.”

But in her interview with the Journal, Haley appeared to give herself more wiggle room when it comes to the next GOP presidential nomination race.

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“In the beginning of 2023, should I decide that there’s a place for me, should I decide that there’s a reason to move, I would pick up the phone and meet with the president,” she said. “I would talk to him and see what his plans are. I would tell him about my plans. We would work on it together.”

Haley was highly critical of the then-president’s actions immediately after the Jan. 6 deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by right wing extremists and other Trump supporters aiming to disrupt congressional certification of now-President Biden’s Electoral College victory.

“His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history,” Haley emphasized during a speech at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting the day after the Capitol was stormed. “It’s deeply disappointing.”

But Haley tempered those comments in the ensuing months, and she told the Journal last week that the former president “has the ability to get strong people elected, and he has the ability to move the ball, and I hope that he continues to do that. We need him in the Republican Party. I don’t want us to go back to the days before Trump.”

What Cruz’s N.H. endorsement says about 2024

Sen. Ted Cruz is wading into an increasingly crowded race for the 2022 Republican nomination in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, one of the nation’s premier congressional battlegrounds.

As first reported by Fox News this past week, the influential conservative lawmaker from Texas endorsed GOP candidate Karoline Leavitt, a 24-year old veteran of the Trump White House, saying in a statement that “it’s time we send a new generation of leaders to Washington D.C.”

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Leavitt is one of six Republicans vying for the party’s nomination in the race for a Democratic controlled district the GOP’s aiming to flip from blue to red. The GOP needs a net gain of just five seats in next year’s midterms to win back the House majority.

While the endorsement is all about 2022, it does spark 2024 speculation about Cruz, who was the runner-up to Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential nomination race and is seen by pundits as a potential GOP White House hopeful next time around.

Cruz generated buzz in August by traveling to Iowa. One of his stops while there was headlining a fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Nicole Hasso, who like Leavitt, is running in a contested GOP House primary for a Democrat controlled seat in a swing district.

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The old rule of thumb for potential White House hopefuls was to stay neutral in party primaries in the early voting states in the preceding midterm elections. But like so much in campaign politics, those norms have dramatically changed in recent years.

“I think they’re completely out the window. I think the laws of political physics have been bent in the last five years in a lot of ways. That’s one of them,” longtime GOP strategist Jim Merrill, a veteran of numerous Republican presidential campaigns, noted. “I think today the upside of getting involved early with someone you have a relationship with, you know, you believe in, there’s a lot of upside to getting involved early for potential presidential candidates.”

Paul Steinhauser

Paul Steinhauser

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