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Eyes on 2024: Iowa butter cows, bumper cars and boos

Former President Donald Trump may not have been at the fairgrounds long, but he dominated the scene.

By and

Most Republican presidential hopefuls descended on the Iowa State Fair over the weekend, which is home to the famed butter cow sculpture, amusement rides and scores of (mostly fried) delicacies. And while other candidates made their appeals to Iowans on the Des Moines Register soapbox or by flipping pork chops, Trump once again dominated the scene.

Trump spent 85 minutes at the fairgrounds on Saturday, per NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard, who peppered the former president with some questions about his legal troubles. Asked if he intended to overturn the 2020 election, Trump simply said, “You know the answer to that.”

The former president appeared at the fair with members of Florida’s congressional delegation who have endorsed him, a clear knock at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was hounded by protesters throughout his time at the fair, per NBC News’ Matt Dixon and Nnamdi Egwuonwu. 

Iowa is a key contest for DeSantis’ campaign, and Reuters reported over the weekend that DeSantis’ campaign, his allied super PAC and an allied nonprofit paid a combined $95,000 to a group tied to Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats. DeSantis’ campaign spokesman Andrew Romeo responded with a statement saying, “Of course we were proud to sponsor an ad with one of the largest and most effective social conservative groups in the state of Iowa. The Trump campaign’s malpractice in not doing so is the real story,” per NBC News’ Bianca Seward.

Trump was the only Republican candidate who attended the fair but did not participate in a “fair-side chat” with Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds, after slamming the governor for staying neutral in the primary after he endorsed her in 2018. Reynolds did suggest she could weigh in on the primary, telling CNN, “Maybe down the road, we’ll do something different.”

In other campaign news …

Biden’s case: As Biden works to sell his accomplishments to voters ahead of next year’s election, NBC News’ Peter Nicholas and Megan Lebowitz report that voters may not be buying his message, zeroing in on how voters in Arizona view life under a Biden administration.

Hunter headache: News that Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee Hunter Biden’s case “creates a fresh headache” for Biden’s re-election campaign, per NBC News’ Sahil Kapur and Peter Nicholas. 

Trump talk: The judge overseeing Trump’s 2020 election interference case warned the former president about making public statements about the case. Meanwhile, Trump awaits a possible fourth indictment in an election interference case in Georgia, where cameras could be allowed in the courtroom, NBC News’ Blayne Alexander and Charlie Gile write. Gabe Sterling, a top Georgia election official, raised concerns that Trump’s rhetoric could lead to violence during an interview with ABC.

Abortion walk back: Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., suggested in an interview with NBC News’ Ali Vitali that he would support a federal ban on abortions after three months of pregnancy. His campaign later walked back the comments, saying he “misunderstood” the questions.

Nevada gamble: Nevada could hold two GOP nominating contests next year, with the state GOP planning to hold a caucus, even though a new state law requires the state to hold a primary election, per the Associated Press.

Six months later: The Post and Courier checks in on former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign six months after her launch, exploring Haley’s struggle to catch fire

Tuning in: Trump has “tuned back in to Ohio’s Senate primary,” writes NBC News’ Henry Gomez, taking notice of Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s recent comments on “Meet the Press NOW,” where he said former Vice President Mike Pence “made the best decision he could with the information in front of him” when he moved forward with certifying the 2020 election results, defying Trump. 

There’s no place like home: Republican Dave McCormick, who is weighing another run for Senate after losing last year’s GOP primary, could face questions about his ties to the state. He owns a home in Pittsburgh, but the AP reports that McCormick still lives in Connecticut, citing “a review of public records, real estate listings and footage from recent interviews.”

In the districts: House Democrats are planning to hold events in their districts to tout Biden’s efforts to address “junk fees,” per the Associated Press. 

Polling partnership: NBC News is partnering with the Des Moines Register and Mediacom to conduct “The Iowa Poll” ahead of the 2024 caucuses, with pollster J. Ann Selzer’s Selzer & Company.