Indictment ignored, Trump barely a mention, as GOP candidates pitch Iowa voters to challenge him

by Gabriel Martinez
Airport Protests

Despite the new federal indictment against him, the issue was completely sidestepped by the Republican presidential candidates in Iowa on Sunday, who instead attempted to position themselves as alternatives to Donald Trump.

In a two-hour event, seven Republican hopefuls took to the stage before around 800 party activists in the leading caucus state, speaking at a fundraising barbecue hosted by Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson at a Cedar Rapids racetrack.

During their appeals to challenge Trump for the 2024 nomination, the candidates acted as if the indictment against him, on charges of attempting to overturn the 2020 election, didn’t even exist. This was also the case with a candidate who previously suggested Trump should withdraw from the race.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a prominent critic of Trump, only broached the topic of the Republican displeasure with the Department of Justice, which many conservatives feel has shown bias in its investigation of Trump. Charges against the former president, including improperly retaining sensitive documents at his Florida residence and hindering their retrieval, were also glossed over.

On Sunday, Hutchinson solely advocated for reformation of the Department of Justice, and his assurance of appointing a new attorney general to enforce fair rule of law was met with applause.

Even Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who cautioned against repeating Trump’s unfounded assertions about the 2020 election, simply stated, “The time for excuses is over.”

Despite the indictment, Trump continues to enjoy strong popularity among the Iowa Republican caucus electorate. According to a recent New York Times/Siena College poll, he leads far ahead of his nearest rival, with others trailing significantly. The poll also hinted that Trump’s standing in Iowa might be somewhat weaker compared to his national position.

Throughout the campaign’s initial phase, GOP strategists have cautioned against directly attacking Trump, noting that such a move might anger his supporters, who view the charges against him as political victimization.

Among those who attended the event, the sentiment was to look beyond Trump’s legal issues. The majority of the candidates, including DeSantis, Hutchinson, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, conservative radio host Larry Elder, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, made no mention of Trump in their speeches.

Only two candidates, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, referred to Trump by name. Haley’s mention was in the context of an anecdote, while Johnson, who showed little support in the aforementioned poll, remarked on Trump’s campaign spending and reiterated a previous pledge to pardon Trump for an earlier indictment in New York related to falsified payment documents to a porn star.

Johnson expressed his concern, saying, “I think that it’s unfair that we start picking on our candidates and letting the Democrats decide who should be running,” reflecting the overall reticence of the candidates to engage with Trump’s legal troubles.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword GOP candidates

Did the Republican candidates in Iowa discuss Trump’s federal indictment?

No, the GOP candidates in Iowa largely avoided discussing the federal indictment against Trump, focusing instead on positioning themselves as alternatives for the 2024 nomination.

Who were some of the key speakers at the Iowa event?

Some of the key speakers included former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, conservative radio host Larry Elder, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Michigan businessman Perry Johnson.

How did the audience respond to Asa Hutchinson’s promise to name a new attorney general?

Hutchinson’s promise to appoint a new attorney general that would enforce the rule of law fairly for the country earned polite applause from the audience.

What was the general sentiment among GOP strategists about attacking Trump directly?

GOP strategists have generally warned against attacking Trump directly, arguing that it could anger voters who have supported him and see the charges against him as political persecution.

Did any candidate express support for Trump, despite his indictment?

Yes, Michigan businessman Perry Johnson expressed support for Trump and even noted he had pledged to pardon him last spring after the former president was indicted by a grand jury in New York.

What does the recent New York Times/Siena College poll say about Trump’s popularity in Iowa?

The New York Times/Siena College poll indicates that Trump remains very popular within the Iowa Republican caucus electorate, leading far ahead of his closest rival. However, the poll also suggested that his position may be slightly less strong in Iowa compared to nationally.

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Sarah Connor August 7, 2023 - 3:54 am

I was at the event. Hutchinson sounded strong, but nobody dares to talk about Trump? They’re all walking on eggshels.

John Smith August 7, 2023 - 4:50 am

Can’t believe they’re just ignoring Trumps charges! Do they think voters just won’t care. what is happening to the party?

Tom W August 7, 2023 - 11:37 am

Why all the fuss about Trump, hes old news. lets look to the future, new faces, new ideas, thats what the GOP needs now.

Rachel L August 7, 2023 - 5:17 pm

Who are these other candidates? barely heard of them, they won’t stand a chance against Trump.

Mike T August 8, 2023 - 12:29 am

I think it’s smart. attacking trump is a lost cause, he’s still too popular. Better focus on their own message.


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