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Nikki Haley visits Iowa as Donald Trump beefs up his staff in the leadoff 2024 state

Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks to a crowd at Royal Flooring in Urbandale, Iowa on February 21, 2023. This was the former South Carolina Governor's first trip to Iowa after announcing her 2024 White House bid.
Clay Masters
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks to a crowd at Royal Flooring in Urbandale on Monday. This was the former South Carolina governor's first trip to Iowa after announcing her 2024 White House bid.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley made her first trip to Iowa on Monday after announcing last week that she’s running for the Republican presidential nomination. She held a town-hall style meeting at Royal Flooring in Urbandale where she told the crowd President Donald Trump would be sticking with the status quo.

Haley is the first declared presidential candidate to visit Iowa a year ahead of the 2024 caucuses. After prepared remarks, the former South Carolina governor was asked by a member of the audience why Iowans should back her instead of former President Trump, who’s running again.

“Because I don’t think you have to be 80 years old to be in D.C,” Haley said to a round of applause. “President Trump is my friend [and] I think he was the right president at the right time.”

The former president who came in second in the 2016 Iowa caucuses has not made a trip to Iowa since formally announcing his third campaign for president.

“We need to leave the status quo in the past in the past, we've got work to do,” Haley said while comparing herself to Trump. “We've got to look forward… this is bigger than a person.”

Haley’s visit came the same day Trump announced key campaign staff in Iowa. Trump’s campaign announced it hired Marshall Moreau as state director. Moreau managed the successful campaign of now Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, who defeated longtime Democratic AG Tom Miller in November.

Eric Branstad and Rep. Bobby Kaufmann of Wilton will serve as senior advisers to Trump. Branstad is the son of former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad while Rep. Kaufmann is the son of Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann. Terry Branstad and Jeff Kaufmann have both said they’ll stay neutral in the primary.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has also said she will remain neutral in the 2024 primary cycle. She was on hand to introduce Haley on Monday. Haley praised Reynolds for the recent law she signed creating voucher-style scholarships for students in private K-12 schools.

“We would not have problems in education if we put education back where it needs to be… in the hands of the parents,” Haley said. “We have to have school choice all over this country.”

Republicans are sticking with Iowa as the leadoff state. Earlier this month, the DNC voted to boot Iowa from their window.

Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.