Forget 2012. Who's ready for the next presidential race?
Quite a few people, actually. Several potential future presidential candidates — Democrats and Republicans — visited Iowa in recent months, proving it's never too early to start making friends in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. To wit:
- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley headlined Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry Sunday. In previous cycles, Harkin's event served as a proving ground for presidential prospects, including President Barack Obama in 2006.
- In June, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick was the keynote speaker for Iowa Democrats at their Hall of Fame Celebration dinner during the state party's convention.
- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will headline the Iowa Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner on Oct. 20.
- Several oft-mentioned presidential prospects appeared at the state party's breakfast at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.: Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Villaraigosa and O'Malley.
- Today, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum announced he's headed back to the Hawkeye State on Thursday for an event in Sioux City with Iowa Rep. Steve King to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. In early August, Santorum headlined the Family Leadership Summit. Santorum narrowly won the 2012 caucuses after diligently working Hawkeye State caucus-goers for months on end.
- Earlier on Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will headline a luncheon for King in Sioux City. Christie campaigned for Iowa Rep. Tom Latham earlier this year, according to the Congressman's campaign staff. Latham and King face tough re-election fights this fall.
- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal campaigned last July on behalf of Mitt Romney in Iowa — one of several trips he's made to the state as a surrogate. He also headlined an August rally to help Iowa Legislature candidates hosted by the National Rifle Association.
- Texas Gov. Rick Perry also appeared at the Family Leadership Summit in August, along with Santorum. He's scheduled to return to the state Oct. 27 for the 12th annual Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Fall Dinner.
- In July, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell appeared as a surrogate for Romney alongside Jindal.