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Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says of potential 2024 presidential run: “If it looks like there’s a place for me…I’ll put 100% in”

By Jared McNett

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    SIOUX CENTER, Iowa (Sioux City Journal) — No matter the speaker at Republican Rep. Randy Feenstra’s second-annual family picnic fundraiser at the Dean Classic Car Museum on Thursday, a common refrain could be heard and a common opponent was repeatedly named.

Whether it was from the keynote speaker, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, or Gov. Kim Reynolds, U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks or Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, the 300-plus people gathered heard the Republican speakers say a version of Feenstra’s 2022 campaign sign slogan: “Randy delivers.”

“Look what he’s done in the minority. Think of what he can do in the majority,” Reynolds said, referring to Republican efforts to retake control of the House this fall.

After ending her remarks, Haley asked the crowd to stand and cheer for the one-term congressman from Hull.

“You have one fantastic, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-freedom congressman,” Haley said.

The words were not so kind for President Joe Biden and other Democrats.

Haley, who served as U.N. Ambassador under former President Donald Trump, accused Biden of “falling all over himself” to re-enter a deal with Iran to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle Eastern nation.

“When America is distracted, the world is less safe,” Haley told the attendees, who paid $50 or more for a picnic lunch.

Haley, 50, spent Wednesday and Thursday at several events in Iowa, fueling speculation of a potential 2024 run for president. Feenstra’s 4th District is the most Republican in the state and considered a key to winning the state’s first-in-the-nation GOP caucuses.

In April 2021, Haley said she wouldn’t run for president if Trump decides to launch another bid. During a Q&A with reporters Thursday, Haley dodged questions about her White House aspirations.

“If it looks like there’s a place for me…I’ll put 100% in,” Haley said.

“Looking distracted”

During her 15 minutes at the podium, Haley condemned the governments in China, Iran and Russia, and the Biden administration’s handling of foreign affairs.

The former South Carolina governor also said Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” which aims to limit what teachers are allowed to discuss regarding gender and sexual preference in schools, didn’t go far enough.

While discussing rising inflation, Haley, a former president of the National Association of Women Business Owners, said she worried about the impact to individual Americans.

“They’re having to pay more money for gas and that’s not going to get to work. They’re having to pay more money at the grocery store. And that’s how they feed their families.”

Joan Hoekstra, who attended the fundraiser, said the economy was her top issue heading into the general elections: “Getting it back to where it was.”

Feenstra accused Democrats of creating “one crisis after another” and “doing more to protect meat packers, instead of meat producers.”

In the House, Feenstra has pushed for a version of the “Cattle Market Transparency Act” which would require beef packers to purchase more of their cattle through bidding in open markets.

When Naig had his turn to talk, he praised Feenstra for the work he had done on behalf of livestock producers. The ag secretary went on to herald the Supreme Court’s Thursday morning decision to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to power plant emissions.

Before the campaign speeches started, state Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center, led a prayer and thanked God for the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that found a constitutional right to abortion. Almost a week after the decision, Miller-Meeks said flatly “When it comes to life, Randy delivers.”

During Thursday’s Q&A after the event, Feenstra was asked about the possibility of a nationwide abortion ban. In response, he talked about his faith but didn’t offer any concrete action items.

The notion of safety came up repeatedly during the fundraiser.

As Feenstra listed what he saw as the vast differences between Northwest Iowa, where he grew up, and the nation’s capital, where he serves, he said, “In D.C., if I go run, I worry.”

Reynolds, who’s running for re-election against businesswoman Deidre DeJear in November, said she helped make Iowans lives easier by keeping businesses open during the COVID-19 pandemic and by reducing the length of time residents can claim unemployment benefits.

“When you pay people to stay home, they stay home,” Reynolds said. “We’re going to do everything we can to get people back to work sooner.” Iowa Workforce Development’s May report showed open jobs totaling more than 85,000 while the number of unemployed Iowans stood near 47,000.

“We’re making great progress and we’re not done,” the governor said.

When he spoke, Feenstra said it wasn’t enough to simply win big. He said Republicans also need to have some semblance of a plan.

“Then we can make this country prosperous again,” Feenstra said. “And be respected on the world stage.”

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