With the 2024 Iowa caucuses one month away, it’s no secret former President Donald Trump is the clear favorite to win the Hawkeye State. But the four state’s House members – all Republicans – aren’t backing the frontrunner just yet.
Reps. Ashley Hinson, Zach Nunn, Randy Feenstra and Mariannette Miller-Meeks all told us they’re not planning to make an endorsement ahead of the Jan. 15 caucuses. Despite Trump running away with a 30-point lead in Iowa, the four lawmakers insisted that they don’t think he’s the only option. They just won’t commit to one.
“In Iowa, you get points for showing up,” Miller-Meeks told us. “President Trump has a core group of people who are gonna vote for him no matter what, but that means the rest are open.”
Feenstra said that candidates in the past didn’t see breakout moments until late in the year ahead of the caucuses, citing Rick Santorum or Ted Cruz, who picked up speed later in their campaigns and won Iowa. That could be the same for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley, Feenstra argues.
“Their grassroots caught on,” Feenstra told us. “They went on to win, so I’m just saying, looking at history, it is a possibility.”
Feenstra hosted and moderated a local forum last weekend with Haley and DeSantis as well as Vivek Ramaswamy and Ryan Binkley, who are also vying for the nomination. The lawmaker asked candidates their stances on faith and family values.
Nunn and Hinson also told us they believe it’s an open question at the moment when it comes to a candidate defeating Trump in their state.
“Anything can happen,” Hinson said.
So why the hopeful optimism despite all the evidence to the contrary? Even with Trump having dominated the reliably red state in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, the congressional delegation is anything but MAGA.
Nunn has been openly critical of his colleagues in the far-right House Freedom Caucus. Miller-Meeks has a pro-Trump primary challenger who has attacked her over voting against Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) speakership bid.
Hinson has worked on bipartisan legislation with progressive lawmakers to expand access to child care. All four members voted to expel the embattled ex-Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) earlier this month.
The lawmakers also said that they often confide in each other ahead of tough votes and try to vote as a bloc when it comes to issues that impact their state. All four members also served in the state legislature together before coming to Washington.
Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have also passed on endorsing in the presidential contest. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds backed DeSantis last month.
“We’ve worked really hard as a delegation to deliver results,” Nunn said. “My priority is to make sure that I’m taking care of folks back home, not coming out here to run a wish list for folks who would mainly like to be on a Sunday morning talk show, but barely show up for their own committees.”
Despite their hushed tones on Trump, all four House members vowed they would support whoever ends up being the GOP nominee.
Big Picture: Trump is very much dominating Iowa polls ahead of other GOP contenders, including DeSantis, Haley, Ramaswamy and Chris Christie.
The latest Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll had Trump’s support at 51%, up 8% from October. DeSantis is trailing in second with 19% followed by Haley with 16%. The poll was conducted Dec. 2-7 and had a margin of error of +/-4.4%.
The former president made his third trip to Iowa this week, urging supporters to show up in “big numbers” at the caucuses next month.
– Mica Soellner