Trump Diverges From GOP Primary Field, Declines Iowa Governor’s Invite to ‘Fair-Side Chat’
Trump Diverges From GOP Primary Field, Declines Iowa Governor’s Invite to ‘Fair-Side Chat’

By Samantha Flom

For anyone hoping to become president, Iowa is an important state.

With its first-in-the-nation caucuses, Iowa is often seen as a key indicator of whether a candidate has a fighting chance in securing their party’s nomination.

That said, it’s no surprise that most of the GOP primary field jumped at Gov. Kim Reynolds’ invitation to up their profiles in one-on-one chats with her at the Iowa State Fair.

According to the schedule the Republican governor shared via Twitter on July 25, almost every declared candidate is slated to participate in her “Fair-Side Chats”—with one noticeable absence.

Former President Donald Trump, the clear frontrunner in the Republican contest, will not take part in the discussions, which are scheduled to take place Aug. 10–Aug. 18 in Des Moines.

Mr. Trump’s campaign did not return a request for comment, though his omission from the list would appear to be his own preference.

When the governor first announced her plans for the chats last week, she noted that she would be extending the offer to every Republican presidential candidate.

“Meet the GOP candidates for president at the Iowa State Fair!” she wrote in a July 17 tweet. “I am inviting all of them for a ‘Fair-Side Chat’ about winning the White House in 2024 so we get America back on track!”

Endorsement Feud

Formerly the lieutenant governor, Ms. Reynolds assumed the executive office in 2017 when then-Gov. Terry Bradshaw stepped down to serve as the U.S. ambassador to China at Mr. Trump’s behest.

In 2018, she was elected to a full term, and in 2022 she won her bid for reelection.

Although Mr. Trump endorsed Ms. Reynolds during both of those elections, his opinion of the governor appears to have soured in recent months amid her decision not to return the favor.

In an interview with the Des Moines Register in February, she pledged to remain neutral on the presidential primary race for the sake of the Iowa caucuses.

“I want to welcome everyone to this state,” she explained. “And if I weigh in, I don’t know if they’ll feel all that welcome.”

Earlier this month, the former president blasted her for that choice.

“I opened up the governor position for Kim Reynolds, and when she fell behind, I endorsed her, did big rallies, and she won. Now, she wants to remain ‘neutral.’ I don’t invite her to events! DeSanctus down 45 points!” he wrote in a July 10 Truth Social post.

That criticism did not sit well with Iowa’s Republican state Sen. Jeff Reichman, who responded by withdrawing his endorsement of Mr. Trump, calling the attack “unprovoked and uncalled for.”

But while Ms. Reynolds has refrained from formally endorsing a candidate, according to a New York Times report, she has made several appearances at events supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—Mr. Trump’s biggest rival for the nomination—in recent months.

The DeSantis campaign, for its part, has been quick to capitalize on the rift between the 45th president and the Iowa governor.

In a recent ad put out by the DeSantis-aligned Never Back Down super PAC, Mr. Trump’s comments about Ms. Reynolds are read aloud by an artificially generated version of his voice.

And while Mr. Trump may have passed on the opportunity to “chat” with Ms. Reynolds next month, Mr. DeSantis was “happy to accept” his fellow governor’s invitation, according to a tweet from his team.

Candidates Schedule

Ms. Reynolds will kick off her “Fair-Side Chats” with a discussion with conservative radio host Larry Elder at 10:30 a.m. (Central Time, CT) on Aug. 10, the first day of the Iowa State Fair.

The next day, Aug. 11, will feature conversations with North Dakota’s Gov. Doug Burgum, former Vice President Mike Pence, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez at 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 10:30 a.m. (CT), respectively.

On Aug. 12, the governor will be joined by entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (8:30 a.m., CT), former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (10:30 a.m., CT), and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (10:30 a.m., CT).

After a two-day break, conversations will resume on Aug. 15, with former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (8:30 a.m., CT), Texas businessman and pastor Ryan Binkley (9:30 a.m., CT), and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (10:30 a.m., CT).

Finally, on Aug. 18, Michigan businessman Perry Johnson (9:30 a.m., CT) and former Texas Rep. Will Hurd (10:30 a.m., CT) will close out the conversations.

As the race currently stands, the RealClearPolitics average of polls places Mr. Trump well ahead of the rest of the GOP primary field at 52.3 percent.

Mr. DeSantis, who has consistently polled in second place, sits at 18 percent, and Mr. Ramaswamy and Mr. Pence are tied for third at 5.5 percent.

With the first Republican primary debate scheduled to take place on Aug. 23, candidates at the Iowa State Fair will be looking to separate themselves from the pack before they take the stage.

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