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Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes another trip to Iowa, raising 2024 speculation

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Clay Masters
/
IPR
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) speaks with Republican Party of Iowa chairman Jeff Kaufmann at a state party fundraiser at the Rhythm City Casino in Davenport.

The potential presidential contended in 2023 headlined a Republican Party of Iowa fundraiser Friday evening, as national Democrats gathered in Washington D.C. to discuss the future of their party’s nominating calendar.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo served in that role under former President Donald Trump from 2018 to 2020, and spoke to about 250 guests Friday at the Rhythm City Casino in Davenport. This is the third time the former CIA Director and congressman from Kansas has visited Iowa since Trump was voted out of office, raising the customary speculation he is thinking about a run for president in 2024.

Pompeo and former Gov. Terry Branstad, who served as U.S. Ambassador to China under President Trump, participated in a panel conversation moderated by Republican Party of Iowa chair Jeff Kaufmann.

As Russian airstrikes continue to hammer Ukraine, there is considerable urgency to end or deescalate the invasion. The U.S. has stationed additional forces in Eastern Europe and along with other NATO members is providing weapons to Ukraine.

Pompeo and Branstad spent a lot of time talking about President Joe Biden’s foreign policy response. Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Pompeo was criticized for calling Russian President Vladimir Putin “savvy." In an interview with Iowa Public Radio before the fundraiser, Pompeo stood by his comment.

“There's nobody more evil or more of a thug than Vladimir Putin,” Pompeo said. “[You] shouldn't underestimate their capacity to try and inflict pain and harm and now cataclysmic dangers to the people of Ukraine.”

During Pompeo’s remarks Friday night, he said the central failure concerning Russia is that the United States didn’t convince Putin before the invasion that the “costs of this atrocious activity would be of such staggering enormity that he would at least perceive that there was enough risk so that he wouldn't do it.”

Branstad agreed with Pompeo.

“The only thing that Chinese or the Russians really respect is strength,” Branstad said. “As long as we keep showing weakness, it just encourages them to go further. So, I think it's important that we restore America's strength.”

While Pompeo was raising speculation about a 2024 presidential run in Iowa, Democrats in Washington D.C. were talking about switching up the nominating calendar ahead of the next presidential election. The DNC Rules and Bylaws committee held its winter meeting and discussed diversifying the presidential nominating calendar, possibly threatening Iowa's first-in-the-nation status.

Kaufmann, who serves on a similar national committee for the Republican National Committee, defended the first-in-the-nation caucuses. Former President Donald Trump has come to Iowa and teased a run in 2024. But Kaufmann says he’ll welcome any Republican when the nominating contest starts after the midterm.

“I am I am going to make sure that the welcome sign is out for everybody,” chairman Kaufmann told reporters after the fundraiser. “I have to do that, or my words ring empty when I say that everything needs to start in Iowa.”

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Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.