Iowa’s all-GOP congressional delegation is staying on the sidelines ahead of the nation’s first nominating contest, declining to endorse runaway favorite Donald Trump.
The Iowa Republicans told us their unified non-endorsing front — which we first reported on last month — abided by a statewide tradition to avoid tipping the scale one way or the other.
Notably, when we pressed Iowa Republicans on whether they would back the former president if he sweeps the caucuses, no one would commit.
“Let’s put it this way: Whenever there’s a [Republican] nominee, I’m not going to be for Biden. I’m gonna be for the nominee,” the dean of the Iowa delegation, Sen. Chuck Grassley, told us.
The delegation is clearly trying to keep its distance from Trump without antagonizing him. Remember, Trump famously tracks his endorsement count intently. Walking this delicate tightrope is a balancing act that’s plagued the GOP in recent years.
Staying neutral: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said members of the Hawkeye State delegation have “all talked about” remaining on the sidelines.
“We’re all maintaining our neutrality,” Ernst said. “I haven’t decided whether to endorse after the caucuses or not. It is possible.”
The lack of support for Trump — and reluctance to show an inclination toward another candidate — reflects the composition of the Iowa congressional delegation. While all six members are conservatives, none could be described as MAGA firebrands.
In addition to Ernst and Grassley, Iowa’s all-Republican Hill delegation includes Reps. Ashley Hinson, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Randy Feenstra and Zach Nunn. Notably, there’s very little seniority here in the House. Nunn is a freshman while the other three members joined the House in 2021.
Feenstra said he wasn’t endorsing any candidate because he didn’t want to “disenfranchise” anybody.
Nunn demurred too, saying his focus on caucus day will be on his own family.
“My biggest concern is keeping three preschool-aged kids engaged in a long caucus night,” Nunn said. “Deploy the coloring books!”
Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is bucking the no-endorsement trend and has gone all out to support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over Trump. Reynolds is not up for reelection until 2026.
The stakes are of course higher for the congressional delegation, where going against Trump would be considered political malpractice in most GOP primaries.
— Max Cohen and Mica Soellner