Three GOP candidates attended a forum in Iowa ahead of the January caucus that offers a big opportunity to try and prove Donald Trump is not the only candidate Republicans will embrace for president.
Elsewhere, Trump stayed on the ballot in Colorado and the New Hampshire primary date is now official.
Here are the campaign updates you may have missed last week.
Trump alternatives make their case
On Friday in Des Moines, Iowa, three Republican candidates met in a setting more intimate than most on the trail. A makeshift Thanksgiving table took the place of debate stage podiums and discussion flowed with little interruption.
The Family Leader Thanksgiving Family Forum was hosted and moderated by Bob Vander Plaats, the president and CEO of the prominent social conservative organization behind the event. Vander Plaats has been an influential evangelical figure in the GOP and Iowa’s Republican politics for decades now, and his endorsement is forthcoming.
At the forum, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who is considered by some to be the eventual recipient of Vander Platt’s endorsement — was asked why he is a better choice than former President Trump, though polls show DeSantis continues to lag with GOP base voters.
DeSantis touted his record in Florida, emphasizing his ability to deliver on conservative principles.
“I think we need somebody that’s going to fight, and I think Donald Trump was somebody that came and said he’d fight for us,” he said. “But we also need somebody that’s going to win. Somebody’s going to win for you and win for your family.”
DeSantis has set his sights on performing well in Iowa, which officially kicks off the races for the Republican presidential nomination. Polling shows that so far, according to 538’s average, DeSantis is the closest also-ran against Trump, who still retains a notable lead.
At the forum, DeSantis sought to paint the former president as more of a showman than someone who is going to get things done in the White House.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was directly asked about her stance on abortion at the forum, an issue that was likely particularly important for the evangelical Christian voters in the audience.
She described herself as the most “pro-life ambassador” to the U.N. and reiterated her view of the issue — which she has said needs more humanization and sensitivity, emphasizing “saving as many babies as possible” while acknowledging that there’s little chance of passing a national ban.
In a discussion that was largely centered on faith, businessman and commentator Vivek Ramaswamy was asked to expound on his religion — something he has encountered a lot on the trail. Ramaswmay linked his Hindu faith to Judeo-Christian values, receiving applause from the audience following his response. Those values, he said, are not unique to Christianity.
“They belong to God actually, and I think they are the values that undergird our country,” he said.
Trump can stay on Colorado primary ballot, judge rules
Trump will be on the Republican primary ballot in Colorado, despite a legal challenge brought by advocates who argued that he should be barred for violating Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.
That constitutional clause disqualifies people from running for office if they previously held office, swore an oath to the Constitution and then engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. Trump’s critics claim it should apply because of Jan. 6 and his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss.
Trump has rejected that outright.
In a 102-page opinion, District Judge Sarah B. Wallace on Friday cited “competing interpretations” of the constitutional clause and a “lack of definitive guidance in the text or historical sources” in order to rule its application onto Trump.
At a commit-to-caucus rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Saturday, Trump began his speech by boasting about his legal victory, which follows him beating similar challenges in two other states. Experts say the U.S. Supreme Court could ultimately have to weigh in.
“It was an outrageous attempt at disenfranchising millions and millions of voters by getting us thrown off the ballot,” Trump said.
New Hampshire officially announces primary date
On Wednesday, New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlon announced that the Granite State’s primary will be held on Jan. 23.
The primary’s first-in-the-nation status had been challenged by the Democratic National Committee, which in February approved a new calendar that set South Carolina’s primary as the first for the party. Party officials believe it better reflects the diversity of Democratic voters and the country. New Hampshire, however, disagrees.
In his announcement, Scanlon was critical of the DNC’s decision to approve a new nominating calendar and their warnings of possible sanctions on the state’s Democratic Party for moving forward with the original primary date, as required by state law. Scanlon said the state would “vigorously defend” their first-in-the-nation status and deemed the DNC’s “threats” of non-compliance as “meaningless.”
Because of the rift between the DNC and New Hampshire, President Joe Biden will not be on the Democratic primary ballot there. However, individual New Hampshire Democrats are organizing a write-in campaign for the president.
The organizers launched a website to promote their write-in efforts with messaging that echoes Biden’s pitch against Trump. The landing page reads: “The fate of our democracy itself hangs in the balance in the 2024 election.”
On the GOP side of the contest, the New Hampshire primary is fast approaching for the 2024 field. A new Monmouth University/Washington Post poll of likely Republican voters that was released Friday showed Trump leading considerably at 46%.
Trailing him in second and third were Haley (18%) and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (11%). If Haley or Christie perform well in this early state, the race could transform — with rivals like DeSantis losing momentum in their argument as the best Trump alternative.
ABC News’ Hannah Demissie, Lalee Ibssa, Soo Rin Kim, Isabella Murray, Oren Oppenheim, Kendall Ross and Kelsey Walsh contributed to this report.
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