Donald Trump speaks at a news conference at Trump Towers in New York City.… (EPA / Andrew Gombert )
Reporting from Washington — Iowa Republicans have invited Donald Trump to keynote the party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner, a tantalizing escalation of the real estate mogul's purported interest in a presidential campaign.
Trump has professed to be seriously considering a White House run as he has made the media rounds promoting the new season of his NBC reality series, "The Apprentice." But he has yet to begin the personal courtship with voters in key primary and caucus states that other, mostly lesser-known, potential rivals have.
What overt moves Trump has made are limited to dispatching a top aide to fly to Iowa last month on his private jet to meet with state GOP officials and conducting an interview with WMUR-TV in New Hampshire, the main broadcast television station in the first-in-the-nation primary state. He also made a surprise appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in February.
Trump has said he would have to wait until the end of latest run of "The Apprentice" before making a formal move toward running, citing federal election laws.
"People have wanted me to run for years," he told Fox Business Network last week. "The country has never been in shape like it is now. If we don't get the right kind of leader, this country is in big trouble."
Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn said the party extended the invitation to have Trump headline their fundraising dinner "to allow Mr. Trump to introduce himself" to activists in the state that hosts the first nominating event of the presidential calendar. It would be his first visit to the state.
"We are excited to have Mr. Trump share his vision for a better America through his experiences as an individual who has made a career as an entrepreneur and job creator," Strawn said in a statement. "I have made it a priority to deliver interesting and high-profile national Republican leaders to speak at our events. Mr. Trump's appearance in June is the latest instance of the Iowa GOP working to provide value to its activists, donors and supporters."
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour headlined an Iowa GOP Chairman's Dinner in the state last month. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin spoke at the September 2010 Reagan Day Dinner, its largest party fundraiser.
The Lincoln Day Dinner is set for June 10 in Des Moines, two days after a planned Republican candidates debate in New Hampshire.