Republican presidential candidates begin to declare their loyalty


With the first GOP presidential primary debate just 13 days away, the Republican candidates are racing to earn a spot on the stage — but a coveted podium finish comes with strings attached, including a pledge to support the final candidate, whoever it is.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump’s entourage at the Iowa state fair is full of Florida supporters in a swipe at Gov. Ron DeSantis as he calls on Republicans to get in line behind his march back to power.

And in Ohio, the state Supreme Court has set a date to hear a case on the state’s proposed six-week abortion ban.

Here’s what to know from the track on Thursday.

The candidates start signing the Pledge of Allegiance — but not Trump

Four GOP candidates have signed the Republican National Committee Pledge of Allegiance to secure their spot on the August 23 debate stage. But Trump was not among them.

DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum all signed the pledge, with the candidates vowing to “respect the will of primary voters and support the candidate in order to save our country and beat Joe Biden” and “not seek to run as a candidate.” independent or in writing.

Trump, who remains the de-facto leader of the Republican Party despite two impeachment trials, three indictments, and three consecutive disappointing Republican elections, said Wednesday he would not sign the pledge because it hinted he might skip the first two debates altogether.

“I’m not going to sign the pledge. Why would I sign a pledge if there are people I’m not going to have. I’m not going to have people named as someone I’m going to endorse,” Trump said on Newsmax, though he didn’t say specifically who he wouldn’t endorse.

The former president has consistently downplayed his campaign’s primary debates given his significant lead in the polls, saying that appearing on stage would only give candidates with less support a chance to beat him.

Trump brings a Florida entourage to Iowa

Trump, along with most of the rest of the GOP presidential field, is headed to Iowa. But he will not go alone.

Trump will bring with him nine Republicans from Florida — Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Byron Donalds, Matt Gaetz, Carlos Jimenez, Ana Paulina Luna, Brian Mast, Corey Mills, Greg Stube and Mike Waltz — who endorsed him for their state’s gubernatorial. .

The move underscores Trump’s influence over the party as a whole, even as he goes after perceived enemies like famed Iowa governor Kim Reynolds, as well as his focus on belittling DeSantis, who has long been seen as Trump’s most important challenger despite his inability to. Bridging the voting gap that separates them.

Reynolds opens the door for a pre-caucion endorsement

Speaking of Reynolds, the Iowa governor previously insisted she wouldn’t issue an endorsement before her state’s famous caucuses early next year.

Photo: Kim Reynolds, Gov. of Iowa, hosting first "fair chats" At the Iowa State Fair on August 10, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds hosts her first “Fair-Side Chats” at the Iowa State Fair on August 10, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

But on Thursday, she appeared to leave the door open, just a crack to give her the nod before voters headed to the polls.

“Well, I don’t know,” she told radio host Hugh Hewitt when asked if she would endorse a candidate before the caucuses. “I said I want to stay neutral. I want [the candidates] to come. I’ll be curious to see what happens in the first debate. But I’m always wary of saying never. But for now, we will remain neutral.”

Trump hounded Reynolds for appearing at events with DeSantis, but the governor did not return fire.

The Ohio Supreme Court sets a date to hear arguments over the abortion ban

The Ohio Supreme Court said Thursday it will begin hearing arguments on Sept. 27 about the state’s six-week abortion ban.

The ban was suspended earlier this year by a lower court and is not in effect.

The announcement comes two days after Ohio voters rejected an attempt to raise the constitutional referendum threshold for passage from a simple majority to 60% — just months before a referendum on adding abortion protections to the state constitution.

ABC News’ Kendall Ross and Isabella Murray contributed to this report.

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