SIOUX CITY — “Get ready,” former Republican President Donald Trump teased a crowd in Sioux City Thursday as he hinted, once again, at a looming presidential run in 2024.
“That’s all I’m telling you,” he said, pausing to let the crowd chant his name. “Very soon. Get ready.”
Trump has continued to coyly suggest he will run for president again in 2024, though he hasn’t made any official declarations.
“In order to make our country successful, and safe and glorious, I will very, very, very probably do it again, OK,” he said Thursday. “Very, very, very probably.”
Trump was in Iowa to help boost Republican candidates ahead of next week’s midterm elections, appearing with Gov. Kim Reynolds, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and others. But he quickly diverted attention back to himself, launching once again into his unproven claims of voter fraud, endorsing same-day voting and paper ballots that he said would “save a lot of money” and promising to “make America great again.”
The visit comes as he is reportedly preparing to launch a new presidential campaign in 2024. Associates of Trump said they expect the former president to announce his 2024 candidacy shortly after Election Day but cautioned that the timing is up to him, USA TODAY reported.
Iowa will once again lead off the presidential nominating process with its Republican caucuses in 2024, and potential challengers have already been making repeated stops to the state.
Iowa Republicans are hoping Trump’s visit will fire up the party’s base in dark-red northwest Iowa and help drive turnout in critical midterm elections next week.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia warmed up the crowd, taking the stage to hail the Republican Party’s “one true leader” ― Trump.
“Republicans are going to have to be the new Republican Party,” she said, urging on the crowd. “We can no longer be the party of Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Dick Cheney, George Bush and Mitt Romney … or any other sell-out, weak Republican.”
There were plenty of Iowans eager to hear that message. By 2:30 p.m., lines of people were already forming.
Bob Witchey arrived at the Sioux Gateway Airport at 10 a.m. Thursday, nine hours before Trump was scheduled to take the stage at a rally for Iowa Republicans.
Witchey, a 61-year-old cattle rancher from O’Neill, Nebraska, stopped by a vendor’s tent, bought a camouflage “Trump 2024” cap and got in line with his fellow conservative diehards. They talked about the need for Republicans to take control of the U.S. House and Senate during next week’s midterm elections, decrease government spending and arrest more immigrants at the Mexican border.
Witchey said the event was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to stand with like-minded thinkers and see Trump up close.
“I didn’t wait for eight hours just to stand here,” he said, shaking the green paper bracelets on his wrist that put him in a gated-off section near the stage. “I want to be up front. It’s kind of a trophy to me.”
An October Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows Reynolds handily leading her Democratic opponent, businesswoman Deidre DeJear. The same poll shows Grassley with his narrowest lead since he was first elected to the U.S. Senate and “squeaky tight” contests in two of four U.S. House districts.
Republicans are hoping for a “red wave” of enthusiasm and discontent with the party in power that could help them wipe the board of Democrats, lifting lesser-known down-ballot candidates such as Republican attorney general candidate Brenna Bird and auditor candidate Todd Halbur.
“We’re all fired up tonight,” Reynolds told the crowd. “We’re five days out, and we talk an awful lot about a red wave. And the only way that red wave is going to happen is if we build it. And in order to build it, we need you to show up.”
“Please help me get my own attorney general in Brenna Bird!” Reynolds said to cheers. Bird is challenging longtime Iowa Democratic Attorney General Tom Miller.
Grassley also tossed some political red meat for the eager crowd.
“I’m not going to give up on trying to get political bias out of the FBI,” he said. “And I’m not going to give up on my investigation of Hunter Biden and other Bidens.”
Iowa Democrats were critical of Trump and Iowa Republicans who appeared with him.
“While Kim Reynolds and Chuck Grassley pal around with a defeated former president who continues to attack our democracy, Iowa Democrats are busy knocking doors, meeting Iowans where they are and mobilizing voters,” Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said in a statement. “Kim Reynolds, Chuck Grassley and the Iowa GOP take orders from their corporate donors, billionaire buddies and MAGA Republicans at the expense of Iowa’s working families.”
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Trump rallies MAGA faithful ahead of 2022 elections
The former president has been on the road throughout October, holding rallies for Republicans across the country. But he remains a polarizing figure, and he’s focused his attention on races where he can help drive his “MAGA” base without alienating potential swing voters.
Though he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden, Trump carried Iowa in both 2016 and 2020.
When he led the ticket as a presidential candidate in 2020, Iowa Republicans credited him with helping to drive a surge of voters that lifted GOP candidates across the board.
“There is no question, (Trump) was a real force in the turnout of Republicans,” Republican strategist David Kochel told the Des Moines Register at the time. “Without the base being as galvanized as they were, none of our candidates would have been successful.”
The Register’s latest Iowa Poll shows that most Iowans hold unfavorable views of Trump, but most Republicans view him favorably.
The poll found 52% of Iowans say their feelings toward Trump are very or mostly unfavorable — up from 45% who said so in September 2021.
The number of Iowans who say their feelings toward Trump are very or mostly favorable has dropped to 46% from 53% in September 2021. Trump earns favorable ratings from 83% of Republicans.
Iowa Poll: Most say it’s best for Iowa’s caucuses to retain first-in-the-nation status
Will Trump run for president in 2024?
Trump has continued to hint at a new presidential run, though he hasn’t made any official declarations.
“In order to make our country successful, safe and glorious again, I will probably have to do it again,” he said at a rally in Texas last month.
The Associated Press reports that even as Trump’s team is discussing potential venues and dates for a formal announcement after the election, the former president continues to tease the possibility of declaring his intentions at one of the rallies he’s planned for the election’s homestretch.
Trump, who placed second in the 2016 Iowa caucuses behind Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has kept his ties to the state fresh. He visited repeatedly throughout his presidency. And since leaving office, his leadership PAC has hired two Iowa-based political operatives, giving him a sustained foothold in the state.
At a rally in Des Moines late last year, Trump reiterated his love for Iowa.
“As disastrous as the Biden administration has been, no one can blame the great state of Iowa, because boy, we did really — we did really good here,” he said. “Iowa, what a place.”
Biden has indicated that he plans to seek a second term, and he has argued that he remains the best option to take on Trump in 2024.
A Register Iowa Poll from July showed that 23% of Iowans hope Biden runs for president again, while 67% say they hope he does not. Among Democrats, just over a third, 37%, want him to run again.
More Iowans hope Trump runs, according to the poll. Thirty-two percent said they think he should run again and 57% said they hope he does not. Most Iowa Republicans, 57%, hope Trump does decide to run for president in 2024.
Iowa Poll:As former president Donald Trump considers 2024 run, most Iowans now view him unfavorably
But Trump is currently embroiled in legal troubles that could complicate those efforts.
There is the Justice Department’s intensifying investigation into how hundreds of documents with classified markings ended up at his club in Palm Beach, Florida. State prosecutors in Georgia continue to probe his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, as do the DOJ and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack, which recently served him a subpoena demanding testimony.
In New York, Attorney General Letitia James has sued Trump, alleging his namesake company engaged in decades of fraudulent bookkeeping. The Trump Organization is now on trial for criminal tax fraud charges, and Trump recently sat for a deposition in a lawsuit filed by E. Jean Carroll, who alleges Trump raped her in the mid-1990s. Trump denies the allegations.
Other potential candidates have already begun flooding Iowa, which will hold its traditional first-in-the-nation Republican caucuses, in 2024 to launch the presidential nominating process. They include former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton.
Sisters Brenda Vodensteine, Barb Kreber and Julie Phillips came Thursday to feel energized before the election. They said they hope Trump runs again in 2024.
“He has the guts to stand up,” said 67-year-old Bob Phillips, Julie’s husband.
“He’s the only one who’s fearless enough,” added Vodensteine.
“He’s got common sense,” Kreber said.
“We had prosperity (when he was in office),” Vodensteine said. “We had safety.”
“And we had common sense,” Kreber said.
Bill Wood, 70, of Galva, said he wasn’t so sure about a 2024 run for Trump. He wants to see how a primary shakes out, and he’s interested in DeSantis.
Wood, a retired manager at the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Storm Lake, said Republicans need to take control of Congress, force government officials to patrol the border more intensely and spend less money.
He said he also supports Grassley and is not concerned about the senator’s age.
“Should he get out?” Woof said. “I don’t know. He seems really cognizant. He has a lot of power, too. The other guy would have to start over.”
Marjorie Taylor Greene calls for ‘new Republican Party’
Greene, a Republican U.S. representative known for espousing right-wing conspiracy theories, helped rally the crowd before Trump’s arrival. She decried rising inflation and high rates of crime.
“But the only crime victim you hear about from Democrats and the media is Paul Pelosi,” she said, drawing boos from the crowd.
Paul Pelosi, the husband of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was brutally assaulted by a man who broke into his San Francisco home looking for his wife.
“Paul Pelosi should have been a gun owner and shot his attacker,” Greene continued. “But Democrats in the media completely ignore horrific crimes against Americans every day.”
Green also called for a “new Republican Party” in order to “truly save America” and called out Republicans Grassley has served with like McConnell, McCain and Romney, dismissing them as sellouts who hold “hands with Democrats and serves the globalist agenda that is the enemy of us all.
“Everyone knows the one true leader of the Republican Party, and that’s my favorite president and yours Donald J. Trump.”
President Joe Biden likely to be a target of Republican ire
Biden, Trump’s 2020 election opponent, doesn’t fare well in the state either.
In July, the Register’s Iowa Poll showed that just 27% of Iowans approved of the way Biden handled the presidency — a historically low mark. That has improved to a 35% approval rate in the Register’s October Iowa Poll, with 61% disapprove.
A majority of Iowans (73%) believes the nation has gotten off on the wrong track, compared with 20% who say the nation is headed in the right direction.
He has become a punching bag for Iowa’s Republican candidates at every level, and Trump’s visit will likely amplify that message as Republicans continue to hammer on complaints about the economy, the rising cost of living and crime.
Biden was last in Iowa in April to announce that he was lifting restrictions on the summer sale of gasoline blended with 15% ethanol. Last week, he held a virtual fundraiser for Democratic U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, who he praised as “one of the best persons in the entire United States Congress.”
Iowa Poll:Most Iowans disapprove of President Joe Biden, say US is on the wrong track
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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.
Tyler Jett covers jobs and the economy for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at email@example.com, 515-284-8215, or on Twitter at @LetsJett.