Stories Chosen For You
There weren’t many Iowans on the concourse as former Vice President Mike Pence made his way around the Iowa State Fair Friday.
Most visitors were staying indoors during an afternoon downpour that hit Des Moines, but Pence and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley braved the weather. They stopped at favorite fair locations for politicians, including the Iowa GOP booth in the Varied Industries building and the Iowa Pork Producers Tent, taking pictures with fairgoers and answering questions.
Pence visited the fair in 2016, when he was on the ticket with former President Donald Trump. But he sidestepped questions Friday about whether his visit meant he was looking at a presidential run himself in 2024.
“After the first of the year, my family and I will do what we’ve always done and reflect and pray on where we might next serve or next contribute,” Pence said. “But today, it’s all about winning back the Congress and re-electing Sen. Chuck Grassley.”
While Pence was officially at the fair with Grassley, other GOP candidates joined the trip around the grounds including U.S. Reps. Randy Feenstra and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, as well as 3rd District candidate Zach Nunn. Pence is also campaigning with Grassley and Nunn outside of the fair, in addition to speaking at events with the Bremer County Republican Party and Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition while he’s in the state.
He’s not the only one hitting the campaign trail alongside Iowa GOP candidates. Pence is one of several high-profile conservatives to visit Iowa this summer. While no top contenders have announced an official campaign yet, many are appearing in the first-in-the-nation caucus state to stump for Republicans competing in the November midterms.
Pence isn’t even the only former Trump administration alumni to visit Iowa ahead of the election. Former U.N. Secretary Nikki Haley campaigned with Nunn in June, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited Iowa three times since the 2020 election.
But Pence’s shot at the White House – like many other Republican hopefuls – may depend on Trump’s 2024 plans. The former president still has a strong base among Republican voters, and he comes out on top of many polls about 2024 Republican presidential candidates. In the July Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, 57% of Iowa Republicans said they hope Trump decides to run for president in 2024.
Pence has said he’s proud of the accomplishments achieved during the Trump presidency, but the pair fell out as Pence allegedly refused to support the president’s demand to block the certification of 2020 election results. Trump’s call to Pence was the subject of one of the Jan. 6 committee hearings, which is investigating the role of the president in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
Pence told reporters Friday that he was disappointed by the “partisan” nature of the committee, but that he would consider a formal summons by the Jan. 6 committee to testify.
“No vice president in American history has been summoned to Capitol Hill to testify before the Congress,” Pence said. “But if they present a formal invitation for the committee, I’ve said we’ll give it due consideration.”
He also said he was troubled by the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida earlier in August, and that he and Grassley called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to reveal what was in the search warrant. The warrant has since been unsealed. But Pence said he disagrees with the backlash against the FBI among some conservatives.
“The calls to defund the FBI are just as wrong as calls to defund the police,” he said.
Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.
On paper, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Dan Cox has one main opponent this fall — Democrat Wes Moore, the best-selling author and former nonprofit CEO.
Increasingly, however, the Frederick County lawmaker is being forced to beat back attacks from a second high-profile foe — the state’s popular governor, Republican Larry Hogan.
Hogan has repeatedly called the Trump-endorsed Cox a “QAnon whack job” and a “nut job.” He has said he will not be voting for him or supporting him in any way. And he declared that he wouldn’t let the lawmaker set foot in the governor’s office.
This week, Hogan went further, questioning the GOP standard-bearer’s sanity.
“He’s not, in my opinion, mentally stable,” Hogan told an Eastern Shore radio station, WGMD, this week. “Half of Republicans don’t support the guy because he’s a nut.”
The governor’s comments come at a crucial time for Cox.
As he pivots from the primary election to the general, he is trying to make the best possible first impression on Democrats and independents who may not have tracked the GOP primary. He also needs to court the voters who supported his main primary rival, former state commerce secretary Kelly Schulz.
Cox is also trying to professionalize the ad hoc team that helped him capture the nomination. In recent days he opened a new campaign headquarters and hired a campaign manager and press secretary.
Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County), a Cox supporter, conceded that Hogan’s constant attacks are likely to make the GOP nominee’s uphill fight even more difficult.
“To me, it’s devastating, especially for your party,” said Salling. “You have somebody that you would think would be your supporter and it’s not.”
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford (R), an outspoken Cox critic and Schulz supporter like Hogan, also predicted that the governor’s comments will hurt the GOP candidate. “You have a governor with 70% approval rating and if he’s saying that he doesn’t care for this other candidate, it’s going to have some impact,” he said.
(Rutherford distanced himself from Hogan’s description of Cox as being “not mentally stable,” calling it “not terminology I would use.”
“The people who support Del. Cox, they support him for the positions that he takes,” Rutherford added.)
In an email, Cox declined to characterize Hogan’s crack about his mental state. He said the choice for voters this fall center around the candidates on the ballot, not the current governor.
“On the ballot for November’s Governor race are Dan Cox and Wes Moore,” Cox wrote. “Wes Moore has made it clear that if elected he would continue governmental discrimination and overreach including more mandates, dictating gender indoctrination in our schools, forced masking, experimental vaccine passports to attend events and even to eat out, and more lockdowns. But the people of Maryland and I, as your governor, will return power to the people, end mandates, keep businesses and schools open and safe, and restore freedom to the Free State.”
Republicans who run statewide for most offices in Maryland — U.S. Senate, comptroller, attorney general — often fail by wide margins, thanks largely to the lopsided voter registration advantage that Democrats enjoy. GOP candidates for governor have won three of the last five governors races by appealing to a broad spectrum of the electorate.
Hogan’s comments about Cox imperil his ability to build that coalition. They could also hurt fundraising.
Goucher College political science professor Mileah Kromer said Hogan is “popular where it matters for winning general elections, popular among moderate-to-conservative Democrats and consistently popular among independents.”
Kromer said Hogan’s continual (and arguably unprecedented) takedowns of Cox only reinforce her core question about his candidacy — whether Cox has a mathematical path to victory. “You have a message from a very popular Republican governor basically saying ‘This guy’s not me,’” she said. “’There is a reason (voters) voted for me, but this guy’s not me.’”
In addition to making sharp-elbowed comments about Cox on the radio, Hogan went a step further on Friday, posing for pictures with Moore and wife Dawn during a chance encounter at the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference. The governor’s staff posted a photo of the trio online.
In an interview, Hogan denied trying to actively undermine Cox’s bid for high office. He said his comment about Cox’s mental stability came only after he received a litany of Cox-related questions.
“It doesn’t matter to me what happens to Dan Cox,” he said. “I was on the radio, talking about all the things that we’re doing, and everything we’ve accomplished for the [Eastern] Shore. And the guy asked me five, six questions about him. And I was just tired of answering the stupid questions.”
Hogan’s comments were picked up by several national media outlets, including The Hill, making it certain that former President Trump, with whom the governor has long sparred, with become aware of them.
Democrats welcomed Hogan’s comments about Cox.
“The governor is incredibly popular, not just in Baltimore County but across the state,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski (D). “I hope that his comments have a deep impact.”
“I think it says a lot when a sitting governor criticizes someone of their own party so resoundingly,” he added.
Former Secretary of State John Willis (D), a political science professor at the University of Baltimore, agreed. An early Moore supporter and Dawn Moore’s former boss when the two worked in the Secretary of State’s office, Willis said: “As the nominee of a party, you wouldn’t want the governor of the state making those comments about you in a general public setting.”
Right-wing group injects millions into Utah race amid sudden fear independent could oust GOP senator
On Friday, the Washington Examiner reported that a key right-wing political group is committing $2.5 million in TV ads to defending Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), amid sudden fears that he could be vulnerable in a race against an independent candidate.
"Utah is a red state, and Republicans are favored to make gains in Congress amid President Joe Biden’s languishing job approval ratings," reported David M. Drucker. "But the Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy group in Washington, is worried enough about Lee’s prospects that it is now airing a television spot statewide, on broadcast and cable, attacking McMullin as a closet liberal."
"'What does Evan McMullin believe, and who’s paying him?' the voice-over in the Club for Growth ad says as the spot opens, before going on to accuse him of using donations to political groups he controls to 'push a left-wing agenda,'" said the report. "The ad was written by Republican consultant Andy Sere. Republican strategist Jeff Roe, who advises Lee’s close friend, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), placed the media buy."
According to the report, the Club for Growth believes the campaign is necessary because the "Senate Leadership Fund can’t be trusted to protect conservatives."
McMullin, a former CIA officer who previously ran for president in 2016, is a conservative former Republican who left the party over his opposition to Donald Trump. He has pledged not to caucus with either Democrats or Republicans if he wins the 2022 Senate race. Democrats declined to nominate a candidate of their own and endorsed McMullin's campaign, because a theoretical McMullin victory would further complicate GOP efforts to win the chamber.
Lee, a far-right senator, drew controversy in 2020 when he claimed that the United States is "not a democracy."
All of this comes as Senate Republicans face a massive cash crunch, with strategists angered at the rapid burn rate of funds from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) on chairman Rick Scott's personal projects, even as Republicans are badly outspent by Democrats on air in key Senate races around the country.