Three of the main contenders challenging former President Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination will be in heavily Republican northwest Iowa on Saturday, joining conservative Rep. Randy Feenstra for a candidate forum.
But Trump isn’t attending. He doesn’t have to.
Trump, the commanding front-runner for his party’s presidential nomination, will be in New York City on Saturday evening, to headline the New York Young Republican’s annual gala.
It’s the latest example of Trump mostly ignoring his rivals and keeping his focus on President Biden as he makes his third straight White House run.
From skipping the first four GOP presidential nomination debates to running ads that spotlight his record in the White House and target Biden, Trump is shining his spotlight on his likely general election opponent rather than taking aim at his nomination challengers during the primary process.
‘You just look at the numbers alone, and he is so strong with Republican voters,’ longtime New Hampshire-based GOP strategist Michael Dennehy emphasized. ‘It’s a typical strong front-runner campaign strategy.’
Dennehy, a veteran of numerous presidential campaigns, said Trump ‘can run the campaign he wants without having to interact with the other Republican candidates.’
It’s a sea change from a year ago, when Trump launched his 2024 campaign to lackluster reviews and plenty of fellow Republicans were blaming him for the party’s less than impressive performance in the 2022 midterm elections.
Fast-forward a year and Trump enjoys extremely large and formidable double-digit leads in the most recent public opinion polls in the crucial early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who are the remaining major contenders for the GOP nomination.
Trump made history earlier this year as the first former or current president to be indicted for a crime, but his four indictments — including those in federal court in Washington, D.C., and in Fulton County Court in Georgia on charges he tried to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss — have only fueled his support among Republican voters.
At Wednesday’s fourth debate, despite Christie’s best efforts, the former president once again emerged with relatively few bruises.
Christie, a vocal Trump critic, repeatedly chastised his rivals for failing to verbally confront the former president. But his scolding appeared to fall on deaf ears, as DeSantis, Haley and Ramaswamy mostly avoided direct criticism of Trump even when the moderators asked a series of questions regarding the former president.
A source in Trump’s political circle, asked about the campaign’s strategy, told Fox News, ‘it’s like being the incumbent, and you don’t need to punch down.’
Pointing to the rest of the 2024 Republican field, the source emphasized ‘there’s no need to engage with these guys.’
But while Trump is keeping his eyes on Biden and next November’s general election, his campaign is definitely not blowing off the primary process.
As Fox News first reported earlier this week, the Trump campaign said it’s shifting into a higher gear in the final weeks leading up to the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses, which lead off the Republican presidential nominating calendar.
‘We have an extremely aggressive operation and an extremely aggressive schedule,’ Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita told Fox News Digital.
LaCivita spoke as he accompanied the former president to Davenport, Iowa on Tuesday, where Trump sat down with Fox News’ primetime opinion host Sean Hannity for a town hall.
‘The last couple of weeks, we’ll be blitzing’ Trump touted at the end of the town hall. ‘We’re up by like 30 or 40 points, but we’re not taking any chances.’
LaCivita previewed that the Trump campaign is planning a slew of Iowa visits not only from the former president but also from ‘dozens of surrogates that are going to be storming the state campaigning… in every venue that has people.’
He said there were ‘close to 1500-1600 precinct captains throughout the state that, literally, their sole job is to run each individual caucus that takes place and making sure that the list of the targeted voters supporting President Trump show up.’
Trump’s campaign has also assembled a large grassroots outreach and get-out-the-vote team in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary and votes second after Iowa.
And while the Trump campaign commercials ignore his nomination rivals, they’re running in Iowa and New Hampshire ahead of the two kick-off contests.
Trump’s campaign says it’s not taking anything for granted.
Looking ahead to the final stretch leading up to the caucuses, LaCivita said ‘our only concern is complacency.’