AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Tomorrow is the first big, multicandidate event of the 2016 presidential campaign season. And no surprise, it's taking place in Iowa; the home of the first big contest of the race. The Iowa caucuses are scheduled to take place in just over one year from now. This weekend's event is hosted by Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa; a man who's sometimes blunt manner raises eyebrows and sometimes sharp rebukes, sometimes even from his own party.
Joining us now from a preview is NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea. And, Don, I understand Anderson we've got close to 10 possible or would-be GOP candidates in a sold-out auditorium. Does this mean a campaign is, like, basically underway in Iowa?
DON GONYEA, BYLINE: I think we can say it begins now. Candidates have been coming here for the past year or more, but one at a time. But here we'll have a stage full of them, and the packed house indicates that at least some Iowans are ready for this thing to get underway.
CORNISH: Tell us more about the man who has organized the event - Iowa Congressman Steve King. I mean, what's his agenda? What does he hope to accomplish?
GONYEA: Steve King is a guy who was often at odds with party leadership. He voted against keeping John Boehner as speaker, but he really wants to be a power broker in this coming year's - the 2016 presidential contest. His big issue is immigration. On that issue, he is a hardliner. He wants that issue to be part of the dialogue and debate over the course of the next year.
His language on immigration, though, is what really attracts so much attention. He is very blunt. Let me give you an example. Prior to the State of the Union address this week, it was announced that one of the so-called dreamers - you know, young people brought into this country illegally as children by their parents - that one of them would be seated with the first lady.
King tweeted out from his official Twitter account - Obama perverts prosecutorial discretion by inviting a deportable to sit in a place of honor. That's just one of many examples. But he insists he's winning on the immigration issue. He wants it to be part of the agenda.
CORNISH: So given what you've described, which of the potential candidates or hopefuls will actually be in Des Moines?
GONYEA: The most serious contenders we can list Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Texas Governor Rick Perry, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, there's former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who'll be here. Also on the lineup, Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas senator, former Senator Rick Santorum, who actually won the 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses. And then you've got others hoping maybe for some attention - Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, Donald Trump always looking for attention and Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO. They're all here.
CORNISH: Don, that's a long list, but aren't some pretty notable names missing? I mean, are they actually avoiding Congressman King?
GONYEA: Yeah, that's where it gets interesting. Nobody says they're avoiding King. But listen, there are people in the party who warned that a candidate who hopes to actually win the presidency should be careful about currying King's favor. So who won't be here? Jeb Bush won't be here, Mitt Romney, Senator Rand Paul. He actually cited a prior commitment. And Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal won't be here, but he says he's got a big prayer day being held in Baton Rouge that he has to attend. So it's also a busy weekend generally. The Koch brothers are having a private, closed-to-the-media event out in California so some people are going there. Some people are doing both.
CORNISH: And separately, we hear that Florida Senator Marco Rubio may actually officially jump into the race. What's going on there?
GONYEA: Yeah, he's not in yet, but he's huddling in Florida with a sizable group of advisers, including people who would raise the money for a run. It appears to be a step toward making a formal announcement that he's in. And we also hear that Mitt Romney is holding a similar meeting in Boston today.
CORNISH: That's NPR's national political correspondent Don Gonyea. Don, thanks so much.
GONYEA: My pleasure.
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