Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox Aug. 19, 2023. (Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Presidential hopefuls former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Libertarian Chase Oliver held the final political stops at the Iowa State Fair Saturday, finishing out the parade of 2024 candidates who came to campaign in the first-in-the-nation state.
As of Friday, more than 800,000 people had walked through the state fair gates. Among attendees have been 14 presidential candidates and more than 700 credentialed media. In their time at the fair, candidates competed for the spotlight, both in talks with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for her “fair-side chat” series and during their time talking with Iowans and touring the fairgrounds.
The busiest day of the state fair saw former President Donald Trump visit with a crew of Florida surrogates. His trip overlapped with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ time at the fair as a plane with a banner stating “Be likeable, Ron!” flew overhead. That same day, candidate Vivek Ramaswamy rapped along to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” and Democratic challengers to President Joe Biden, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson also spoke to Iowans.
Trump — and his indictment in Georgia — were a topic of much discussion from 2024 GOP candidates during their talks with Iowans at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox. Former Vice President Mike Pence defended his decision to certify the 2020 election results when a person accused him of committing treason for his actions Jan. 6, 2021. Former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd said Friday that Trump lost the election “period, full-stop” and called for the Republican Party to move on.
The former president is far ahead of his competitors in national polls, earning 53.7% of supporters in the GOP field, according to FiveThirtyEight Saturday, trailed by DeSantis at 14.8% and Ramaswamy at 8.4%.
But there are still months to go until the Iowa Republican caucuses on Jan. 15, 2024. Some candidates were hoping to gain traction: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and former gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder asked fairgoers for donations and support to qualify for the Aug. 23 debate stage in Milwaukee in hopes of raising their national profile.
Saturday was the final day 2024 candidates were scheduled to hold events at the state fairgrounds. Here’s what Oliver and Hutchinson told voters:
Hutchinson calls for Trump to participate in debate
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson criticized former President Donald Trump’s reported decision to skip the first Republican presidential debate and called for Iowa to lead the way in choosing a new GOP candidate.
Sources close to Trump, who currently leads by a wide margin in polls on the 2024 Republican primary field, told the New York Times that the former president plans to do an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson in lieu of attending the debate in Milwaukee Aug. 23. The interview has not yet been scheduled but is expected to air around the same time as the debate on Fox News.
Hutchinson has not yet officially qualified for the debate stage, but said he believes he will meet the 40,000-donor requirement before the Wednesday event. He called for the people gathered to listen to him at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox to tune into the debate and hear a “serious policy discussion” among candidates, and called for Trump to participate.
“I wish he would participate in the debate this week so we could really have a discussion of the issues, and where our party and our country is going,” Hutchinson said. “But he’s chosen not to do that and actually have a competing event.”
The Arkansas Republican has been one of the more critical voices against Trump on the GOP campaign trail. He said he believes America will be “better off with a leader that is focused on America, focused on others and service, and not simply a revenge tour.”
“I believe that, after talking to Iowans all up and down here, that you’re going to be the first state that moves away from Donald Trump,” Hutchinson said. “You know, it’s gonna be a gradual process, because it’s sort of a default position. … And so it takes a little while for Iowans to figure out where they’re going. And that’s why that debate is important, is that you will help decide where you’re gonna go after you move away from Donald Trump.”
After Trump’s fourth criminal indictment in Georgia, Hutchinson said in a statement “Donald Trump’s actions disqualified him from ever serving as President again.”
Hutchinson, who also served previously as U.S. attorney and administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said that upholding the “rule of law” is a foundational piece of protecting the constitutional rights of Americans.
“We have a written constitution, we have our rights, and — and — we have the rule of law, and in the separation of powers that protects those God-given rights,” Hutchinson said.
Libertarian Chase Oliver says voters are looking for an alternate to Trump and Biden
Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver called Saturday for voters to reject the “false political binary” in American politics.
Oliver’s 2022 Senate candidacy was credited for prompting that year’s runoff between Georgia Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker. He told the group of 30 gathered to watch him at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox that there were many voters already looking for another choice in the 2024 presidential election.
He cited an AP-NORC poll published earlier in August that found 54% of respondents would “definitely not” or “probably not” support President Joe Biden if he is the Democratic nominee in 2024, and 63% would probably or definitely not support former President Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. While there are candidates challenging each, both Trump and Biden are currently the frontrunners in the race for their respective party nominations.
“That tells me there are a lot of voters out there who are looking for something different, who are sick and tired of the same old 20th century politicians in the 21st century,” Oliver said. “So I’m somebody who’s going to be fighting for your ability to be your best self, have your prosperity and your life.”
Oliver said politicians from both parties were at fault on issues like the COVID-19 lockdowns and continued involvement in international conflicts — both issues he opposed. The U.S. government expanded power during the pandemic in a similar way to how it expanded during the “war on terror,” he said.
“We need to roll back every single bit of power the government gave itself in the wake of the pandemic,” he said. “That was the biggest mistake we made after 9/11: government sees a whole lot of power to fight the war on terror, and we never ever clawed it back. We cannot make that same mistake with COVID. Our next president has to be willing to fight back against those who hold on to power.”
The Libertarian Party message is about promoting individual freedoms, he said, and about returning decisions currently made by “nameless bureaucrats” in Washington D.C., to people in their own communities.
“I don’t believe we need a culture war country, we need a culture ceasefire in this country,” Oliver said. “Because again: I don’t care how you live, who you love, how you worship, how you express yourself, if you do that and peace, that is your business not the government’s.”
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