Republican presidential hopefuls have shared a stage for the first time in the 2024 White House race at an Iowa campaign event.
Chief rivals Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis headlined the Republican party’s annual Lincoln Dinner fundraiser. All 13 candidates were given 10 minutes to speak during the event.
He told attendees that he was the only candidate who can win next year’s election and suggested this was the only reason he faces a raft of criminal and civil charges.
Trump has already insisted he will still run for the White House, even if he is convicted.
There were more than 1,200 people in the huge ballroom – all of whom have an outsize influence on who will be the Republican nominee.
Many said they have a genuinely open mind about who they will vote for, but there was no shortage of Trump stickers among the crowd.
There was no fun to be had watching the different candidates interacting with each other. They each had their own backstage suite which they popped out of to deliver their ten-minute speech. They actually didn’t have to see each other at all.
Vivek Ramaswamy captured the room and brought many to a standing ovation as he gave a barnstorming performance – just what he needed to do if he is going to make a break through
Will Hurd’s performance will not be forgotten in a hurry – but for all the wrong reasons. The audience appeared genuinely shocked to hear him say Donald Trump is only running for president to stay out of jail.
Loud boos and rattling cutlery nearly drowned out the rest of what he had to say – with one man shouting “go home”. It was clear he had lost the room.
Friday’s fundraiser comes a day after new charges were filed against Mr Trump over his alleged mishandling of classified files.
Federal prosecutors have widened their criminal investigation into the former president over his handling of government documents after leaving office, but he remains the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
According to a FiveThirtyEight opinion polling average, Mr Trump is on 52.4%, Florida Governor DeSantis on 15.5% and everyone else is under 10% in the Republican race.
Ron DeSantis also spoke at the Republican party’s annual Lincoln Dinner fundraiser on Friday
Mr Trump may soon be charged in Washington with alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. He has denied all allegations against him.
Iowa is the first state where voters will begin the state-by-state process of whittling down the field of presidential candidates until one from each main party remains to compete in the November 2024 election.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley and former Vice-President Mike Pence also attended Friday’s event.
Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, skipped the fundraiser as his campaign focuses on New Hampshire.
Mr DeSantis has been in Iowa since Thursday. He has pledged eventually to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties as he seeks to boost his rankings in the state and nationally.
The Florida governor has faced criticism – including from within Republican ranks – over new education standards passed for middle schools in his state.
A line in the 200-page curriculum, saying that slaves learned useful skills that “could be applied to their personal benefit”, has generated controversy.
Mr Scott, one of three black Republican presidential 2024 candidates, told reporters on Thursday: “What slavery was really about was separating families, about mutilating humans and even raping their wives. It was just devastating.
“So I would hope that every person in our country – and certainly running for president – would appreciate that.”
Local opinion polls in Iowa indicate Mr Scott may be gaining momentum. Mr Trump recently lost a supporter in the key state of Iowa owing to a political spat.
An Iowa state senator decided to back Mr DeSantis instead, days after Mr Trump criticised Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds for remaining neutral in the 2024 race.
“How many times have we gritted our teeth and shook our heads at some of the things that the former president has said?” Jeff Reichman told NPR.