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GOP contenders collide in Washington, DeSantis shrugs at the polls and more trail takeaways

Several 2024 Republican hopefuls are descending on Washington Friday to participate in a pair of conservative gatherings.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and former President Donald Trump will speak at the Pray Vote Stand Summit -- with Trump delivering the keynote address. They are set to speak Friday evening.

MORE: DeSantis' administration advises against updated COVID shots for people under 65

Earlier in the day, former Vice President Mike Pence rolled out a new initiative to protect the "American family" at the summit. DeSantis, at a separate Washington event, also spoke about family and parental rights.

Meanwhile, Democrats are throwing their support behind Vice President Kamala Harris continuing on as President Joe Biden's running mate after one of the party's most revered leaders appeared less enthusiastic.

And will Melania Trump join her husband on the campaign trail?

Here's what to know from the trail on Friday.

DeSantis brushes off Trump's polling lead

DeSantis, who has polled well behind Trump in Republican primary surveys, insisted Friday the race was "very fluid" and argued the primary is "a state-by-state thing."

"So we've focused our efforts on the early states. I mean, if it was a national primary, we'd have a different strategy and we'd be applying our efforts differently," DeSantis said on Fox News.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a Concerned Women for America Summit at the Capitol Hilton, Sept. 15, 2023, in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a Concerned Women for America Summit at the Capitol Hilton, Sept. 15, 2023, in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

When host John Roberts noted that Trump is "leading substantially in all of the early states," DeSantis said, "He's not leading by those numbers, I can tell you that, in Iowa."

Trump had a 20-point lead over DeSantis among likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers in an NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll conducted by Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer in late August. The good news for DeSantis in the poll was that a majority of Republican caucusgoers in Iowa -- 52% -- said their minds weren't made up.

-Will McDuffie and Hannah Demissie

Pence, DeSantis on parental rights and 'pro-family strategy'

Pence unveiled a strategy to "rebuild the American family" at the Pray Vote Stand Summit in Washington, with the policy items he listed getting spats of applause from the crowd.

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Pray Vote Stand Summit, Sept. 15, 2023, in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)
PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Pray Vote Stand Summit, Sept. 15, 2023, in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

The policies range from making adoptions free and expanding school choice to ending transgender care and expanding abortion restrictions.

"I believe there's no greater threat to America's future than the collapse of the traditional family," Pence said. "So I believe we must resolve here and now that we will elect leaders from the White House to the State House, who will champion their traditional family without apology."

MORE: Pence says he'd consider a woman for VP -- but would he dine alone with her?

DeSantis spoke at the Concerned Women Summit in D.C. Friday afternoon where he emphasized parental rights and shared his experiences as a father of three.

"We have made sure that the rights of parents are reflected in the laws of the state of Florida, you as a parent have a fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of your children. Schools are important. Other parts of our society are important, but that does not supersede the role of parents," he said.

He slammed the "woke agenda" and its impact on families.

"I'm a dad of a 6-, 5- and a 3-year-old and my wife and I really believe that parents in our country should be able to send their kids to school. They should be able to watch cartoons, just be kids without having someone shoving agenda down their throat."

-Libby Cathey, Isabella Murray and Hannah Dimissie

Elizabeth Warren backs VP Harris reelection bid

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Democratic Rep. Jennifer McClellan dispelled any notions that Harris shouldn't also be on the ticket in 2024.

"Joe Biden and the United States of America are lucky that Kamala Harris is on the ticket. She helps the ticket and she's going to continue to help the ticket and I'm just grateful she's there," Warren said.

PHOTO: FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks while visiting Sycamore & Oak, a minority-owned retail village that houses other local small businesses, Aug. 04, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: FILE - Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks while visiting Sycamore & Oak, a minority-owned retail village that houses other local small businesses, Aug. 04, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, FILE)

Their marked support comes days after former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi avoided directly answering if Harris was the best running mate for Biden in 2024, saying on CNN that Biden "thinks so, and that's what matters."

Pelosi also said "you don't do that much" as vice president.

-Isabella Murray

Trump on Melania joining the campaign

Eight years ago, Trump and Melania descended together down the golden escalator at Trump Tower in Manhattan to announce he was running for president.

But the former first lady has been missing in action from his 2024 bid.

PHOTO: Donald Trump and wife Melania Trump, is applauded by his daughter Ivanka Trump, right as he's introduced before his announcement that he will run for president in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, June 16, 2015. (Richard Drew/AP)
PHOTO: Donald Trump and wife Melania Trump, is applauded by his daughter Ivanka Trump, right as he's introduced before his announcement that he will run for president in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, June 16, 2015. (Richard Drew/AP)

MORE: Special counsel seeks 'narrowly tailored' gag order against Trump, citing 'disparaging and inflammatory attacks'

In a new interview with NBC, to air in full on "Meet the Press" this Sunday, Trump said she would be out on the campaign trail "pretty soon," but declined to give an exact timeline -- only saying "when it's appropriate."

"She'll be out there, and honestly, I like to keep her away from it. It's so nasty and so mean," the former president said.

-Soorin Kim, Lalee Ibssa and Kendall Ross

Not joining the trail? The Rock

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson said he's been "overwhelmed" by calls for him to run for president, but is going to decline -- for now.

He said on ESPN's Pat McAfee Show that he likes being home too much to run for president -- but after his children get older, "Maybe. We'll see."

GOP contenders collide in Washington, DeSantis shrugs at the polls and more trail takeaways originally appeared on abcnews.go.com