DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Eight Republican presidential candidates are in Iowa on Saturday to attend a political event hosted by U.S. Senator Joni Ernst.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence are among those scheduled to appear at a rally at the state fairgrounds near Des Moines.
Former President Donald Trump, the GOP’s top presidential candidate, will notably be absent. He has largely avoided any event that would make him share the stage with his 2024 rivals.
DeSantis, considered Trump’s main challenger, made a series of campaign stops in early voting states, including Iowa, in recent days as he marked his first week as an official candidate.
Pence, who has made frequent trips to Iowa over the past year, is not yet in the race but will kick off his long-awaited campaign at an event in Des Moines on Wednesday, according to two people familiar with his plans. who spoke on condition of anonymity to share details ahead of the official announcement.
Pence was the White House’s only hope to participate in a morning motorcycle ride for charity that is a staple of Ernst’s annual “Roast and Ride” event.
In an interview he gave to Newsmax ahead of the ride, Pence said he and his wife, Karen, spent a lot of time praying and thinking about how to serve the country next.
“We have made a decision. I thought there would be no better place to announce our decision than here in Hawkeye State,” he said.
The former vice president and former governor of Indiana appeared with Ernst and a group of about 200 motorcyclists at a Harley-Davidson store in Des Moines. Pence wore jeans, boots and a leather vest with patches that said “Indiana” and messages of support for the Army.
He and Ernst stood in the back of a van and briefly addressed the riders before driving off.
“One of the reporters just asked me if we show up more in Iowa, what our path would be. I said I was more worried about the path we’re going to stay in today,” said Penny.
Pence, wearing a white motorcycle helmet and with a big smile, then drove off on a cobalt blue Harley Davidson. The group planned to head to the fairgrounds for the rest of the event, with a barbecue and speeches.
He had already participated in the race once, in 2017.
Other presidential candidates expected to appear at the rally later today include former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, author Vivek Ramaswamy, and conservative radio host Larry Senior.
Price reported from New York. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.