SIOUX CENTER, Iowa — The list of prominent Republicans thought of as possible presidential hopefuls is growing, and so are their stops throughout the Hawkeye state.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, made a swing through Sioux Center on Tuesday to roll out a new program to help elect GOP military veterans to Congress, such as U.S. Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks. His trip was scheduled before formally announcing this program on Monday.
Cotton’s trip comes days after former ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley had a three-day stretch through Iowa, headlining the Iowa GOP’s signature fundraising dinner last Thursday.
On July 16, former Vice President Mike Pence will return to Des Moines to headline The Family Leader Summit, an event for an Iowa conservative Christian group. He will be joined by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.
During Tuesday’s event in Sioux Center, Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann signaled his party has every intention of holding the first-in-the-nation caucus to kick off the 2024 primaries.
“We’re doing everything we can, I just want you to know that,” Kaufmann said to the group of about 200. “I hope we don’t have to go at it alone, but we will go at alone if we have to. There’s nothing more important in my job description than that.”
A spokesman for the Iowa GOP clarified that Kaufmann meant Iowa Republicans will hold their first 2024 contests, with or without Iowa Democrats.
WHO 13 reached out to the Iowa Democratic Party for response and received the following statement from chairman Ross Wilburn:
“Iowa Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on much, but we do agree in keeping Iowa first in the nation. I have had conversations with Jeff Kaufmann and will continue to be in communication with him going forward,” Wilburn said.
Kaufmann later asked the Arkansas senator if he believes Iowa should retain its first-in-the-nation status, to which Cotton replied: “why should there be any change in the Republicans’ first-in-the-nation status just because the Democrats can’t run a caucus?”
Cotton went on to say he does support Iowa remaining first, citing benefits of the decades-long tradition. Like many other potential contenders, the senator has made no formal announcement to run in 2024, but did hint at it.
“I know that you get a lot of politicans from out of state who come through Iowa and they may pander to you a little bit. I promise I’m not going to do that tonight, I have too much respect for you. I’m the only one who loves you so much that I married a girl born in Iowa,” Cotton joked.
The rest of Cotton’s speech centered around denouncing “critical race theory” and accusing Democrats of policy that leads to higher crime in cities — similar themes from Ambassador Haley’s speech in West Des Moines last Thursday.
Joined by U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, the three also spoke to issues veterans face, as part of Cotton’s new initiative. In a video announcing his project, Cotton said he’s supporting “veterans who won’t bend a knee to the woke mob” and “veterans who will stand up against open borders and critical race theory.”
Cotton 44, and Grassley, 87, each did 22 push-ups on stage at the end of their question-and-answer portion. Grassley described as a display of support for veterans.