While the majority of Republicans will drop out before Arizona’s Presidential Preference Election next March, they’re still angling to be the future of their Party.
Over a dozen presidential candidates have descended upon the Iowa State Fair over the past week, eager to draw crowds and entice voters.
By the time Arizonans cast their votes in the Presidential Preference Election, most of those candidates will have dropped out of the race.
When Iowa voters caucused for US President in February 2020, they had six Democratic candidates to choose from. By the time it was Arizona voters’ turn to cast their ballots in March, there were only two candidates left who hadn’t dropped out. Similarly, 2016 saw the number of presidential hopefuls across both parties drop from 11 candidates to five in the two months that separated the Iowa caucus from Arizona’s Presidential Preference election.
In 2024, Iowans will be the first to decide—as has been the case since 1972—on Jan. 15, when the state holds its caucus. By the time Arizona holds its election on March 19, 28 other states, along with Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, will have already held their primary elections.
By the time it’s Arizona’s turn, most candidates who don’t see a path to victory will have already thrown in the towel.
But just because they’ll be gone, doesn’t mean they intend to be forgotten. Here are five candidates who, while polling at less than 10% in Arizona, are positioning themselves for success—whether their campaign trail takes them to the White House, or stops before hitting the Salt River.
Polling in Arizona: 9%
At age 38, Vivek Ramaswamy is the youngest candidate running for president—and he won’t let you forget it.
Instead of answering questions from fairgoers in Iowa, he spent most of his time taking selfies, and—when asked by the state’s governor, Kim Reynolds, what his favorite walk-out song was, instead of simply telling her it was Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” he stood up and dropped bars.
“I am 38 years old. I am the youngest person to ever run for US president in a major party,” Ramaswamy incorrectly claimed. “And I love seeing young people here. Here’s the thing about us—I think it’s true of all of us—we are hungry for a cause. We are starved for purpose and meaning and identity.”
Ramaswamy is polling high at the moment—second in some surveys—and he gathered more attention from Iowans on Saturday by being personable and accessible.
Throughout his fair visit, Ramaswamy attempted to use language and issues that appeal to youth voters—with a conservative twist. Winning the youth vote may become a moot point, however, if Ramaswamy’s successful in his plan to raise the voting age to 25.
Yet time and again, his pitch simply repackaged various right-wing ideas familiar to Fox News’ older audience.
He describes his movement as a revolution, but by that he explained he would shut down the FBI to end investigations into former President Donald Trump. He quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., but misattributed Dr. King’s words as justification for ending affirmative action.
When he was questioned about climate change—a topic of importance to young voters, liberal and conservative alike—Ramaswamy attempted to emphasize the importance of addressing it, while simultaneously minimizing its impact.
“The reality is, are global surfaces going up by a little bit? Yes, they are,” Ramaswamy said. “Is that attributable to some man-made causes? There’s reasonable debate, but arguments to suggest that it is. Is that an existential risk to humanity? It is absolutely not.”
But nearly every expert and scientist versed on the subject of climate change refutes Ramaswamy’s claim, and when challenged with this information, the second-youngest candidate ever for US president grew agitated and dug his heels in.
“Under my administration, we will drill more, we will frack more, we will burn more coal, we will use ethanol, we will use nuclear energy, without apologizing for who we are as Americans,” Ramaswamy said.
Former vice president, governor, and congressman
Polling in Arizona: 5%
While no gallows were present at the Iowa State Fair, there were a large number of Jan. 6 defenders in attendance, all too eager to give former Vice President Mike Pence a piece of their mind. Some Trump campaign volunteers even questioned his faith.
During the rehearsed portion of his Soapbox speech, Pence was calm, conversational, and pretty boring—a stark contrast to some of the more bombastic speakers, like Ramaswamy and Francis Suarez. It wasn’t until he was challenged for his role in the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol that Pence seemed to come to life.
“Why did you commit treason on January 6,” a member of the crowd shouted out (the man turned out to be a Democrat from Colorado, but Pence has been dogged by the same question from actual MAGA supporters on the trail).
“People deserve to know that on that day, the former president asked me to choose him over my oath to the Constitution,” Pence responded, with conviction in his voice. “I chose the Constitution, and I always will … There’s almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could pick the American president.”
While walking through the fair, many attendees approached the former vice president and thanked him for standing up to Trump on Jan. 6, and told him that action had secured their vote for him—or at least their respect.
But his defiance of Trump met its threshold the previous week, as Pence promised to support whoever the Republican nominee for US president is—even if it’s his former running mate.
Pence’s newfound self-confidence gave him more energy—but it seems like too little, too late.
“I’m gonna vote for the guy with the most impeachments, and most indictments, because that guy—he knows where all corruption is.” pic.twitter.com/LS39RjCQ2d
— Camaron (@thisiscamaron) August 10, 2023
North Dakota Governor
Polling in Arizona: 0%
When Kathryn Burgum spoke to a crowd about her husband, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, and his plans to run the country, she was energetic, charismatic, and heartfelt. All important traits for a presidential candidate, and, unfortunately for Gov. Burgum, not traits that he appears to possess.
Burgum, a software-investing billionaire who gave his campaign an artificial boost by handing out gift cards to anyone that would donate, as first reported by political campaign newsletter FWIW, struggled to draw a crowd at events both on and off the fairgrounds. During a free barbeque in the Des Moines suburb of Waukee, only about 40 people came to hear him speak.
Mayor of Miami, Florida
Polling in Arizona: 0%
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was confident as he laid out his plan to win the presidency. It centered around attracting four voting blocs that have been drawn to Democratic candidates in recent years: Latinos, urban residents, Millennials, and Gen Z.
“If you want to find a candidate that can win young voters, urban voters, Hispanic voters,” Suarez said. “There isn’t a better candidate available. Period. Full stop.”
But in conversations with fairgoers, Suarez struggled to relate with his party’s voter base. When an attendee of one of his events asked him for specifics on how he would cut taxes, she was shocked with his answer.
“Let me tell you what we did in Miami. We did tiered salary cuts—we cut salaries,” Suarez began. “We cut salaries, it was tough. And then we cut pensions,” he finished proudly.
The response from the person he spoke with, a woman from the Boomer generation—half of whom have no retirement savings—upon hearing Suarez’s tax reduction plan included taking away peoples’ retirement savings, was simple.
“We cut salaries — and then we cut pensions.”
— Camaron (@thisiscamaron) August 11, 2023
Conservative radio host
Polling in Arizona: 0%
Conservative radio host Larry Elder kicked off his discussion with Reynolds with the bold assertion that he nearly won the governor’s race in the recall election against California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“I carried every single county in the state,” Elder said. “And I had more votes than every other candidate [running against Newsom]—combined.”
But what Elder failed to mention is that he received less than half as many votes as Newsom in the recall election, and roughly one million fewer votes than the Republican candidate who ran against Newsom in 2022.
Elder was quick to mention, however, that he needed more contributions to his campaign in order to qualify as a candidate for the first Republican primary debate next week. In order to qualify, candidates must receive donations from at least 40,000 different people.
Qualifying for the debate seems to be what his candidacy is focused on—multiple times, he mentioned he simply hoped he would be able to shape the conversation in the field. When Reynolds gave Elder five minutes to give a closing pitch, Elder took just 45 seconds and finished his time on stage.
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