It’s an age-old tradition among White House hopefuls – traveling to the crucial states that kick off the presidential nominating calendar to help fellow party members running in the upcoming midterm elections – with the added bonus of making friends that could come in handy later .
And it’s playing out once again in 2021.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who may run for the White House in 2024, heads to New Hampshire this week to help raise money for the GOP in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state, which will likely be home to key Senate and House races in the 2022 midterms where congressional Republicans aim to flip blue seats red.
Three other possible GOP presidential contenders – former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina – have already traveled to Iowa, the state whose caucuses kick off the presidential nominating season, to help raise money for Iowa Republicans. The state will likely see a couple of heated House showdowns next year, and possibly a competitive Senate race if longtime GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley retires.
Campaigning for Republicans in next year’s elections could pay dividends when the next White House race officially gets underway following the 2022 midterms.
“It’s a strategy that a number of presidential candidates have used over the years, traveling to early primary and caucus states ostensibly to help Republicans but really make friends, lay the groundwork for White House campaigns,” noted longtime GOP strategist Jim Merrill.
Merrill, a veteran of numerous Republican presidential campaigns who’s based in New Hampshire, added that “these early moves make it clear once again that New Hampshire and Iowa are going to be pivotal to determining who our next president is going to be.”
Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann told Fox News earlier this year that “I have probably had more interest in our regional events than I have had the previous two presidential cycles that I have been the chair.”
“I would say there’s a lot more interest here than meets the eye,” Kaufmann said, teasing that there could be plenty more visits by possible 2024 contenders this year. “I’m not toying with you. Stay tuned.”
He wasn’t kidding.
Since Kaufmann’s conversation with Fox News, the Iowa GOP announced that two more potential 2024 Republicans – former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as ambassador to the United Nations under President Donald Trump, and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas – are heading to the Hawkeye State in June to help raise money for the state Republican Party.
All this comes as Trump, more than four months removed from the Oval Office, remains extremely popular with the Republican base and retains incredible clout over GOP politicians. Trump aims to continue playing a kingmaker’s role in Republican primaries during the 2022 cycle as he continues to flirt with a 2024 presidential run to try and return to the White House.
The early polling data clearly shows that if the nomination race were held today, the former president would be the overwhelming favorite. But while Trump’s teasing of a 2024 run is making other potential GOP presidential contenders cautious, it’s not stopping them from making the early moves and calls necessary to prepare for the next White House cycle.
Longtime GOP consultant David Carney highlighted that with Trump mulling a bid to return to the White House, it’s a far different scenario than the wide-open fields for the GOP presidential nominations in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
But Carney, a veteran of Republican presidential campaigns for three decades, said: “I don’t think any serious candidate would be scared off because it’s four years. No one knows what’s really going to happen with the president. I don’t see it having much effect right now.”
And separate from the early state stops, there’s plenty of action going on behind the scenes.
“A lot of potential 2024 candidates are picking up friends in the ultra-activist category. They’re not making waves, they not making news headlines, they just talking on the phone and communicating, getting things set up,” New Hampshire Institute of Politics Executive Director Neil Levesque noted.
With the early moves underway, here’s a look at some of the potential 2024 contenders who are making the rounds.
The former vice president is headed to New Hampshire on Thursday to headline the Hillsborough County GOP’s annual Lincoln Reagan awards and fundraising dinner.
Former Vice President Mike Pence takes part in a ‘fireside chat’ with approximately 400 pastors gathered at the First Baptist Church of Columbia, in Columbia, South Carolina on April 29, 2021.
As Fox News first reported, Pence will give the keynote address at the dinner, which will be held at the Armory at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Manchester, long a familiar venue for presidential contenders.
The trip to New Hampshire is Pence’s second this year to one of the early voting states in the presidential primary calendar. Last month he traveled to South Carolina, the state that votes third in the GOP’s nominating calendar and holds the first southern contest in the presidential primaries, to give his first address since the end of the Trump administration on Jan. 20.
The former secretary of state is heading back to Iowa this summer.
The influential Iowa-based social conservative group The Family Leader last week announced that Pompeo will be one of the headliners of their 10th annual Leadership Summit on July 16 in Des Moines.
The trip to Iowa will be the second this year for Pompeo, the former congressman from Kansas who served as CIA director during Donald Trump’s administration before he was nominated and confirmed as America’s top diplomat. Pompeo’s stop in the Hawkeye State in late March, where he headlined an event by the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, just west of the capital city of Des Moines, was the first in Iowa by any of the potential 2024 Republican White House hopefuls.
And last week Pompeo headlined a fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the reelection arm of the House GOP.
Haley’s heading to the first-in-the-nation caucus state next month to give the keynote address at the Iowa Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Dinner, a major gathering and fundraising event for the state GOP.
But Haley made news in Iowa this past week ahead of her visit, as her Stand for America PAC endorsed Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds, who’s running for reelection next year.
The senator from Arkansas will team up with Grassley and Kaufmann on June 29 in Sioux Center, Iowa, a small city in the reliably red northwest part of the Hawkeye State, to help raise money for the state party.
Cotton, who faced nominal opposition last year as he ran for reelection, spent much of his time campaigning for Trump’s 2020 reelection as well as for down-ballot Republicans. His travels brought him both to Iowa and New Hampshire. This year Cotton has already headlined two virtual events for New Hampshire’s GOP.
Cotton’s headed in August to Nevada, the state that holds the fourth contest in the GOP presidential nominating calendar. He’ll speak on Aug. 14 at the sixth annual Basque Fry with former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who’s considered extremely likely to launch a Republican challenge next year against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis will also speak at the Basque Fry in Nevada.
DeSantis, who’s up for reelection next year, was in the battleground state of Pennsylvania earlier in May, receiving a rousing reception from party activists as he headlined the Republican Committee of Allegheny County’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner.
While he didn’t say anything concrete about a potential 2024 run, DeSantis dropped a hint in the last line of his speech, saying, “I can tell you this: in the state of Florida, with me as governor, I have only begun to fight.”
His pushback against restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic in the Sunshine State made him quite popular with GOP base voters over the past year, and he came in second behind Trump in the much-watched 2024 straw poll at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which was held in Orlando, Florida.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, whom pundits also consider a potential 2024 presidential contender, is another headliner at the Family Leader summit in neighboring Iowa in July.
While the first-term conservative governor and strong Trump supporter who’s running for reelection next year has repeatedly said she has no interest in running for president, she continues to spark speculation about potential national ambitions in 2024.
Kristi Noem, governor of South Dakota Governor, speaks during an event at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota, U.S., on Friday, July 3, 2020. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Like Cotton, Noem last autumn campaigned for Trump and down–ballot Republicans in multiple states, including Iowa and New Hampshire. Besides the upcoming trip to Iowa, the governor last week launched a federal political action committee named the Noem Victory Fund. The new PAC allows her to raise funds and spend money in elections beyond South Dakota.
Scott, who also discounts a 2024 run, was the main attraction last week on a New Hampshire GOP virtual fundraiser, and is likely to travel to the Granite State this summer to help raise money in person for local Republicans.
It was the second time this year that Scott, Florida’s former two-term governor and the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, headlined a virtual event in New Hampshire. He was also the guest earlier this year on a virtual meeting of the Right of Center group of leading Granite State conservative activists and leaders.
And he also was the main attraction at a GOP gathering and fundraiser at the beginning of April in Iowa.
The senator from the Palmetto State and the only Black Republican in the chamber also brushes off any talk of a 2024 White House run.
The rising star in the GOP told Fox News earlier this spring that his “only objective is to be the United States senator for the great state of South Carolina.”
But Scott sparked 2024 speculation when he traveled to Iowa in April to headline a state GOP speaking series and fundraiser. And Scott saw his star shine even brighter a month ago after delivering the GOP response to President Biden’s joint address to Congress.