Former President Trump on Monday returns to Iowa, the state that leads off the Republican Party’s presidential nominating calendar, for his first trip since launching his third White House campaign in November.
The former president’s stops on the campaign trail have been few and far between since declaring his candidacy in mid-November. He made stops on the same day in late January in New Hampshire and South Carolina, which vote second and third in the GOP primary calendar.
However, behind the scenes, Trump and his top advisers have been busy building out his campaign team in key early voting states where the first ballots for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination will be cast in 11 months.
“The team is growing by the day, especially in these early states. A lot of things are happening on the ground and behind the scenes,” Trump 2024 spokesman Steven Cheung told Fox News.
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Trump already has a leadership team in place in Iowa, which includes Eric Branstad. The son of the former longtime Iowa governor who served as an ambassador in the Trump administration, who served as state director of Trump’s 2020 re-election, is back as a senior adviser on the 2024 campaign.
The former president is scheduled to roll out new education policy — with a large dose of culture wars politics mixed in — in an event on Monday evening at the Adler Theater in Davenport. Aides say Trump will also tout his administration’s accomplishments and spotlight his agenda, including on issues such as trade and agriculture as well as education, if he wins back the White House.
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Ahead of his speech, Trump’s campaign is expected to roll out a fresh round of endorsements in the first caucus state.
“We’re also rolling out endorsements. We’ll have a list of endorsements from eastern Iowa that will be pretty significant,” Cheung touted.
Trump is also planning to take questions from local reporters and make an unannounced stop at a local establishment. Following his campaign kick-off event in South Carolina on Jan. 28, the former president – whose love of fast food is well documented – surprised employees and customers as he stopped at Zesto of West Columbia, a restaurant known for its fried chicken, burgers and chocolate dipped ice cream cones.
Last month, after visiting the site of a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Trump stopped by a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant.
While Trump was known for his large rallies during his successful 2016 presidential campaign and his unsuccessful 2020 re-election bid, he rarely made small scale retail stops to talk with voters at restaurants or diners.
“These types of visits garner a lot of eyeballs and attention, not just media-wise but social media-wise as well. But we’re still going to do rallies. This is not something in place of rallies. It’s just another tool in the toolbox to get the president out there, meeting and interacting with people face-to-face,” Cheung said.
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More than two years after leaving the White House following his 2020 election defeat at the hands of President Biden, Trump remains the most popular and influential politician in the Republican Party, and until recently, he was the overwhelming front-runner in the early 2024 GOP presidential nomination polls. And earlier this month, Trump once again overwhelmingly won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The largest annual gathering of conservative leaders and activists has become a Trump-fest since the former president’s 2016 election.
However, Trump has taken plenty of incoming fire over his impact on the GOP’s lackluster performance in the midterms, received some unfavorable reviews following his campaign launch at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, and has faced of criticism over controversial comments and actions in the past couple of months.
Separately, legal scrutiny focusing on Trump appears to be intensifying, and possible indictments in the coming weeks could make him the first former president in American history to face criminal charges.
While Trump remains the front-runner in an average of the Republican nomination surveys, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is in second place in the polls, has narrowed the gap. While DeSantis remains on the 2024 sidelines, he grabbed plenty of attention on Friday as he made his first ever visit to Iowa.
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