The path to a presidential bid runs through Iowa, so any up-and-coming politician making a high-profile Iowa stop deserves a second look.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made one such visit to the Iowa-based Family Leadership Summit on Friday.
There, Pompeo spoke about the US’ relationship with China, which makes sense, given his role as secretary of state. But he also leaned heavily into the issue of religious freedom.
Pompeo touted the Trump administration’s “100% pro-life foreign policy” in his keynote speech, adding: “This administration appreciates and knows that our rights come from God, not government. Can I get an amen to that?”
During his speech, he didn’t say anything about his future aspirations. But as The Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel noted: “He peppered his speech with nods to his favorite Iowa restaurants, its sports teams and his wife’s family’s ties to the state — a common habit of presidential candidates who swing through to woo Iowans every four years.”
Iowa is home to a reliable swath of conservative evangelical voters, for whom religious freedom and issues like abortion are hugely important. Support from politically organized and involved groups can make or break a nascent presidential campaign during the caucuses every four years.
Pompeo has said he’s interested in a presidential run once Trump leaves office, and he recently passed on running for a Senate seat from Kansas, where he was elected four times to the US House.
He also drew a crowd. Friday’s event was sold out, organizers told The Des Moines Register, drawing 650 socialdistanced attendees to West Des Moines, with an accompanying livestream.
The Family Leadership Summit is a frequent stop for Republican presidential contenders. In 2015, the group hosted a forum for presidential contenders, including recently announced candidate Donald Trump. There, Trump called John McCain a war hero because he had been captured in Vietnam, but famously added, “I like people that weren’t captured.”
Pompeo’s visit also coincides with the release of a draft report on human rights from his “Commission on Unalienable Rights” at the State Department, which particularly emphasizes freedom of religion and right to property.