It feels like 2024 already as a batch of Republican presidential hopefuls head to Iowa to test their popularity with the state's evangelical Christian base.
Driving the news: Former Vice President Mike Pence is headlining evangelical group The FAMiLY LEADER's 10th annual leadership summit in Des Moines Friday.
- Household names including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will also speak.
Why it matters: The base, made up of older voters, remains one of the most enthusiastic demographics to turn up at polls, though their numbers and political relevance are decreasing.
The intrigue: The last four years of evangelical support for former President Donald Trump may seem left-field to outsiders who question his adherence to faith.
- Iowa Republicans made Sen. Ted Cruz their nominee in 2016. The FAMiLY LEADER's CEO Bob Vander Plaats also endorsed him.
- But Trump's actions to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, his Supreme Court appointments and his handling of the Islamic State group have ultimately won them over.
What they want now: A vocal and tried conservative who can fill Trump's void if he doesn't decide to run again, Vander Plaats said.
- Evangelicals appreciated his "authenticity," though not his demeanor, he said.
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who made headlines for his opposition to 2020 shutdowns, could be a frontrunner, as well as Pence and Pompeo.
If Trump does run: Expect his fiery base to elevate him to the top. Then you're looking at who should be his VP pick, such as Noem or Tim Scott, said Vander Plaats.
As for Gov. Kim Reynolds: Vander Plaats told Iowa Press she would be a "very compelling VP choice."
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