Greg Abbott nixes Iowa invite, another signal that he's not running for president in 2024

Abbott passes on chance to speak to Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, a key stop for GOP contenders in the lead-up to the Iowa Caucuses.

If Gov. Greg Abbott really wanted to run for the White House in 2024, it is not likely he’d be turning down big Iowa speaking engagements like he just did.

While Abbott hasn’t made any formal announcement about running for the White House one way or the other, his lack of travel to Iowa and New Hampshire as other GOP contenders make beelines for those states shows the Texas governor is not laying the early groundwork for a presidential campaign. Iowa and New Hampshire are traditionally the first two GOP presidential primary voting states.

IN-DEPTH: Why Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is missing from 2024 presidential buzz

Former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis were all working Iowa voters last month , and this week both former Ambassador Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina are in the state.

But Abbott passed when the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition sent him an invite to speak at its annual spring kickoff in Clive, Iowa, next weekend.

Pence, Scott, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, of San Antonio , are among the list of eight candidates who have agreed to speak at the event as they try to get their names in the national conversation.

The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition is typically a key stop in the early run-up to the Iowa Caucus vote, one that former Gov. Rick Perry said he remembers making in October of 2011 as he began his 2012 presidential campaign .

“They were places that you needed to go, needed to be engaged in if you were serious about running for president,” the former Texas governor said in an interview on Tuesday. “I learned more about Iowa than I ever thought I would in my lifetime.”

Abbott’s campaign team confirmed that he’s also turned down other out-of-state speaking opportunities during the Texas Legislative Session, which runs through May 29.

But the lack of face time in Iowa isn’t keeping Abbott from being on the invite lists and showing up in presidential polling. Abbott has regularly been listed among the top contenders in regular Fox News Polls behind Trump, DeSantis, Pence, Haley and others.

Abbott’s longtime campaign advisor Dave Carney joked earlier this year that being governor of Texas automatically gets you included in the presidential chatter, whether you want to be or not.

“Clearly, there’s some constitutional amendment that voters supported back in the day that says, ‘If you’re a governor of Texas, you must consider running for president,’” he told the Associated Press earlier this year.

Abbott particularly looked like a potential candidate after winning his re-election over Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2022. While Abbott comfortably won that contest, it came at a cost. He ended up spending more than $140 million in that re-election bid, leaving him with just over $7 million in his campaign account to start 2023.

And then there’s history. Perry and former Gov. George W. Bush were the last two Texas governors, both of whom ran for the White House.

From 1980 to 2016, there had always been a Texas Republican in the mix, thanks largely to the Bush family. And Democrats have had serious challengers at times, including former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen in 1976 and more recently O’Rourke and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro in 2020.

But despite all that, the buzz around Abbott has been noticeably more muted this year , especially with the entry of Trump into the race. Once Trump entered, it had a slew of potential GOP challengers talking less about trying to challenge the man who has won the last two GOP nomination battles.

After Trump jumped into the race in November, Carney told reporters that Abbott’s team wasn’t planning to do any “testing-the-waters type stuff. Just focused on things here in Texas.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is also among those who had been considering another White House run. But with Trump in the field, he turned his focus to running for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2024 .