What is the Family Leadership Summit?

DES MOINES, Iowa (NewsNation) — It’s all about Iowa for Republicans on the campaign trail this weekend, and most of the GOP presidential candidates will make an appearance at an event in the Hawkeye State Friday — with one notable exception.

Despite an invite, former President Donald Trump will not attend the Family Leadership Summit. All other major GOP candidates are expected to be in attendance, six of whom will be interviewed by the event’s host Tucker Carlson.

The former Fox News host will lead the Family Leadership Summit, one of many events that will be held in the state in the coming weeks as voters begin to seriously consider their options.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will be among six White House hopefuls who will make an appearance and speak at the event. Former Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Vivek Ramaswany, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson are also scheduled to speak at the event Friday.

Trump’s absence will open him to criticism from some Republicans that he’s ignoring the forums that are a staple of Iowa presidential politics.

Polling conducted at the event revealed that Trump still leads the vote in Iowa with 44%. DeSantis follows behind the former president with 21%.

Candidates who are the most blunt in knocking Trump aren’t making inroads in Iowa. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for instance, hasn’t visited the state as a 2024 candidate and is not among the summit speakers Friday. He is instead focusing his energy on the more libertarian voters in New Hampshire.

In addition to GOP candidates for the White House, President Joe Biden and presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. also received invitations to the event. However, neither Democrat confirmed their attendance.

But what is the Family Leadership Summit, and why is it so important for Republican presidential candidates?

The Family Leadership Summit, held and produced by the Family Leader — a Christian organization that hopes to strengthen the relationship between the church and government — was created to bring like-minded Americans together to seek “the kingdom of God” in America.

It’s the largest gathering of Christian voters in the Midwest who are looking for cultural transformation in the family, church and government.

Held in the ballroom of the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines, the Family Leadership Summit is expected to see a crowd of over 1,700 people.

The summit has become a chance for presidential hopefuls to win over Christian voters by reflecting on religious values. Faith has played an important part in how Iowans vote.

Trump got a lot of support from Evangelicals in Iowa in the 2016 and 2020 general elections, and the 2024 candidates will be hoping to pry those votes away from him.

“He taught me that if you have faith in God, faith in yourself, and faith in America, all things are possible,” South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said at the Iowa event.

The state’s Evangelical Christians are the most influential group in the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses. The 2024 presidential candidates will try to lean on these voters to win in the Hawkeye State. 

Iowa is the host of the nation’s first presidential caucuses. What happens there sets the tone for the rest of the nominating contests.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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