GOP presidential hopefuls make pitch to Johnson County voters Friday

Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ tailgate in Coralville drew hundreds to listen to seven presidential hopefuls.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks speaks to crowd During Mariannette Miller-Meeks Political Tailgate in Coralville, on Oct 20, 2023.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks speaks to crowd During Mariannette Miller-Meeks Political Tailgate in Coralville, on Oct 20, 2023.
Kathy Le

Standing on the bed of a bright red pick-up truck in the Streb Construction building in Coralville on Friday night, U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, kicked off her annual fundraiser the “Triple MMM Tailgate” and welcomed GOP presidential hopefuls to pitch their candidacy to Iowans. 

The tailgate comes less than three months from the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15. The Friday event drew hundreds of attendees and seven Republican presidential candidates, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley

Learn more here:

GOP frontrunner Former President Donald Trump did not attend Friday’s event, and Michigan businessman Perry Johnson, who was scheduled to attend, suspended his campaign Friday morning. 

They talked on topics ranging from the Israel-Hamas war to the economy during the presidential forum.  

Ron DeSantis emphasizes congressional races, national debt  

DeSantis called attention to congressional races as a key part of 2024. DeSantis said races like Miller-Meeks’ district are imperative to bringing conservative policy to life. 

“Look as president it’s a team effort and as your nominee, I’m going to be working up and down the ballot to make sure we return Republican and expand Republican majorities,” DeSantis said. “Districts like [Miller-Meeks district] are very important for us to be able to hold  — you can’t do it by yourself as president.” 

Miller-Meeks district is listed as “in-play” by the National Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Iowa City Democrat and University of Iowa law Professor Christina Bohannan has received help from national Democrats as the race gains traction ahead of 2024. 

According to the Cook Political Report, Miller-Meeks’ seat is listed as likely Republican, but still up for grabs in the next election cycle. 

DeSantis also called for better control of the national debt. He said Republicans not only must decrease the nation’s debt, they need to help eliminate it. 

“It is not going to be enough for us to just simply manage this decline that our country is going through a little bit better than the Democrats,” DeSantis said. “We need to reverse this decline. We need to usher in an American revival.” 

Ron DeSantis speaks to crowd During Mariannette Miller-Meeks Political Tailgate in Coralville, on Oct 20, 2023. (Kathy Le)

Vivek Ramaswamy worried about ground invasion in Gaza 

Republican presidential candidate hopeful and Biotech Engineer Vivek Ramaswamy, used his time at the tailgate to state something he believes no other Republican or Democrat has said since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7. 

“I am deeply worried about the wisdom of this ongoing, potentially imminent ground invasion to Gaza which I do not believe is going to be good for Israel, and I do not believe is going to be good for the United States,” Ramaswamy said, “This is the most pro-Israel thing we can do as a friend to say learn the lessons from the mistakes we made 20 years ago in this country.”

Nikki Haley calls for Congress to pick a leader

Haley called for House Republicans to “figure it out” in their battle for the next speaker of the U.S. House and to get back to governing. 

“You don’t fix Democrat chaos with Republican chaos,” Haley said on Friday. “They need to get in the room and figure it out and get us a speaker and get on with their job.”

Haley said Washington’s chaos and the appeasement of President Joe Biden’s Administration had given a false sense of security and emboldened U.S. enemies to attack Israel. 

As Haley was leaving, Miller-Meeks said, “If she wasn’t running for president, I’d nominate her for speaker.”

Miller-Meeks, who had recently received credible death threats for her change in support for the U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan’s bid for speakership, gave a fiery speech to kick off the event. Miller-Meeks spoke to defend her vote against Jordan and to defend her record in Congress as a staunch conservative. 

“I am never going to quit fighting for Iowa and I am never going to quit fighting for this country,” Miller-Meeks said. “So if you think you can intimidate me, go … suck it up buttercup.” 

Ryan Binkley emphasizes seven-year economic plan  

Pastor, CEO of Generational Equity Group, and Republican presidential candidate Ryan Binkley emphasized the belief on Friday that America must remember the foundation the U.S. was built on.

“It’s time for America, I really believe this from the bottom of my heart, to turn back to God, to turn back to each other, to remember the foundation of who we are as Americans, and to really start a revival that’s truly needed in our country again,” Binkley said.

Binkley said he created a seven-year Economic Plan that will balance the nation’s budget in just seven years, as well as a plan to fix, what he believes is, a broken health care system. 

“When we get strong financially, we’ll be able to lead again, and we can do this as America. But, we can’t do this without changing health care,” Binkley said.

Standing applause form crowd During Mariannette Miller-Meeks Political Tailgate in Coralville, on Oct 20, 2023. (Kathy Le)

Tim Scott rails against “appeasement” by Biden-Harris Administration

Scott railed against the Biden Administration during his speech at Miller-Meeks’ tailgate on Friday. Scott said Biden’s recent decision to allow the release of $6 billion in Iranian money that was frozen in Qatar allowed Iran to fund the Hamas attacks. 

Scott criticized Biden’s Thursday night primetime address. Scott said Biden should start by looking at the “squad” for hateful rhetoric about the Israel-Hamas war. 

Scott is referring to four ultra-progressive members of Congress, including Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. 

Talib is the first Palestinian member of the U.S. House and has given pointed criticisms of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians since the conflict erupted. 

Doug Burgum hones in on the economy, energy 

Governor of North Dakota and Republican presidential candidate hopeful Doug Burgum was the second to last candidate to speak to the tailgate crowd.

Burgum used his time on stage to focus on the state of the country in terms of inflation and economy. 

“We’ve got uncertainty in the world and we’ve got uncertainty at home. Inflation is the No. 1 thing that’s choking every American family,” Burgum said. “It’s reaching into every hard-working American’s savings including, unfortunately, everybody in this room, like a thief in the night.” 

The Consumer Price Index measures the price changes of the goods and services that consumers pay for. From data taken in September, the CPI rose 3.7 percent over the last 12 months. In that same report, the all items less food and energy index rose 4.1 percent, the energy index decreased 0.5 percent, and the food index increased 3.7 percent. 

As president, Burgum stated he will also change the way the U.S. purchases and sells energy, as well as focus on security.

“On day one, we’re going to sell energy to our friends and allies. Stop buying it from our enemies,” Burgum said, “And we can’t have national security without food security, energy security, and border security.”

Asa Hutchinson touts record

Former Arkansas Gov. and Republican Presidential Hopeful Asa Hutchinson touted his record of experience to distinguish his campaign as he continues to lag in the polls.  

Hutchinson previously served as a U.S. Attorney, a member of Congress, head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and as the Department of Homeland Security undersecretary for border and transportation security before his role as governor. 

Hutchinson served his two roles in executive agencies under George W. Bush following 9/11. Before that, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1996 to 2001. 

“I understand what it means to lead in times of crisis,” Hutchinson said. “After 9/11, the president of the United States asked me to help protect America from a terrorist attack. I was in the situation room with him, and I saw the challenges we face.”

More to Discover