(WASHINGTON) — With six months until nomination contests begin, presidential candidates are once again converging on Iowa, the first-in-the-nation Republican primary state whose coveted nomination remains up for grabs.
On Friday night, GOP candidates will flock to the state’s capital of Des Moines for the Lincoln Dinner, an event hosted by the Iowa Republican Party. With 13 candidates in attendance, the event marks one of the largest campaign gatherings in the state so far this year. Each candidate will have 10 minutes to address the crowd.
Capping off that event is former President Donald Trump, whose presence in Iowa has been closely watched since he began a spat with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier this month. Trump has criticized Reynolds on social media for remaining neutral in the nomination contest, claiming that his endorsement allowed her to win the office in 2018.
Since then, Trump has declined to attend several high-profile events in the state, like last week’s conservative evangelical Family Leadership Summit, and has been campaigning largely without engagement with local leadership. In the latest snub to the governor, Trump plans to attend the Iowa State Fair in August while declining an invitation to sit down with Reynolds for a one-on-one public conversation.
Trump remains a healthy lead in the state, according to statewide polling amassed by FiveThirtyEight, garnering about 50% support among Iowa Republicans. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is the next most popular with around 15% support, followed by South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott with about 10%.
The only major candidate absent from Friday night’s program is Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor who says his campaign efforts are focused on New Hampshire, the second state in Republicans’ primary lineup, rather than in Iowa.
Meanwhile, across town, Vice President Kamala Harris will attend a roundtable discussion about abortion rights with local activists. Iowa recently enacted a law that would ban abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know that they are pregnant. A Harris spokesperson has called the law an example of “Republican extremism.” The law is currently blocked as a legal challenge moves through the courts.
Aside from the upcoming Lincoln Dinner, multiple candidates are holding other campaign events in Iowa.
DeSantis will host five campaign stops throughout southern Iowa this week. Analysts once speculated that DeSantis would be the strongest challenger to Trump. But the campaign has battled controversy for weeks — most recently, over issues including Florida’s new African American history curriculum, which critics say downplays the horrors of human slavery, and the revelation that a pro-DeSantis video featuring Nazi imagery was created by one of his now-fired staffers.
While the DeSantis campaign attempts a “reboot,” Scott appears to be gaining on the Florida governor in the polls. Scott hosted an event with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday.
On Friday, Trump will hold an event celebrating the opening of his new Iowa campaign office in Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines.
Also on Friday, a forum focused on entrepreneurship will see visits from four lesser-known candidates: Radio personality Larry Elder, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, businessman Perry Johnson, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.
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