DeSantis and Trump want to influence Iowa Republican activists in dueling events

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump will share the spotlight in Iowa on Saturday, offering a chance to influence influential conservative activists and contrast their campaigning styles in the top Republican voting state.

DeSantis, who is expected to announce his 2024 presidential campaign any day now, is set to hit Iowa with politics at the annual congressional banquet and Iowa Republican Party fundraiser, while Trump, the November candidate, hopes to make a show of strength with supporters outdoors. rally.

Although the two men will be hours apart, the split-screen moment in Iowa is a first for the two national Republican powerhouses. It’s an early preview of a matchup between the former president, who has fared ahead of his party rivals in early national polls, and DeSantis, widely seen as his strongest potential challenger.

It will be DeSantis’ first trip to an early testing ground since the Florida Legislature adjourned last week after he spent months pitching the governor a conservative agenda that he is expected to unveil when he announces his campaign.

Meanwhile, Trump will return to the comfort of the campaign trail after a whirlwind week. On Tuesday, the New York civil jury found him guilty of columnist E. Gene Carroll for sexual assault and defamation and awarded him $5 million. A day later, during a controversial CNN town hall, he repeatedly insulted Carroll, reiterated lies about his 2020 election loss, and downplayed violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

DeSantis has built a reputation as a conservative governor willing to push hard for conservative policies and even pick a political fight with Disney. But so far, he hasn’t shown the same zeal to take on Trump, and even before entering the race, he faces questions about his ability to woo donors and woo voters.

His visit to Iowa will provide a test of his personal charisma as he interacts with local Iowa Republican officials, donors and volunteers, all under the glare of the national media.

DeSantis made his first visit to Iowa in March, promoting his memoir at events in Davenport and Des Moines to more than 1,000 people. Although DeSantis shook hands along the rope line near the stage after the event, he didn’t interact much with the voters. This time, he can expect a series of introductions to influential group activists in a more conversational environment who will be undertaking his measures for the first time.

More than 700 people are expected to attend the Sioux Center fundraiser for Rep. Randy Feenstra at the Dean Classic Car Museum, along with dozens of news reporters from around the country. Later, DeSantis plans to headline a state party fundraiser in Cedar Rapids that is expected to bring about 300 influential eastern Iowa Republicans.

In contrast, Trump is leading a rally expected to draw several thousand people to the outdoor amphitheater at the Des Moines Water Park on Saturday night.

Although Trump aides said the Des Moines event was in the works before DeSantis’ plans were announced, he and his team have long seen the governor as his only serious challenger. They hope Saturday’s big pro-Trump rally draws comparisons to the scale of their respective events.

Although Saturday is their first time in Iowa, Trump held a rally in Davenport three days after DeSantis in March and took aim at him on renewable fuels and federal rights.

Saturday’s fight performances come as the emerging rivalry becomes more personal.

DeSantis has largely ignored Trump’s abuse, which included allegations of inappropriate treatment of young girls as a teacher decades ago, questioning his sexuality and calling him “Ron DeSanctimonius.”

DeSantis’ sharpest jab at Trump came in March, just before Trump was to be indicted in connection with allegations of payments to a porn star. Asked by reporters about the prospect of an indictment, DeSantis said: “I don’t know what it means to pay a hush money to a porn star to keep quiet about an alleged relationship. I just can’t talk about it.”

Trump’s campaign began running an ad mocking DeSantis for aligning himself with the former president in his 2018 run for governor, even using some of Trump’s remarks as a nod to his supporters in Florida.

Trump’s super PAC, MAGA Inc., is also airing ads highlighting DeSantis’ votes on cutting Social Security and Medicare and raising the retirement age. The group even took aim at DeSantis’ snacking habits, running an ad urging him to keep his “pudding fingers” from those perks, referencing a report by The Daily Beast that the governor ate chocolate pudding with his fingers instead of a spoon. a few years ago plane.

DeSantis said he doesn’t remember doing that.

A pro-DeSantis super PAC, Never Back Down, hired an Iowa staffer and began trying to rally support for the governor ahead of his announcement. The group has already started knocking on doors and announced Thursday that Iowa Senate President Amy Sinclair and Iowa House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl will endorse DeSantis’ nomination. Friday, the group rounded up about three dozen more GOP state lawmakers to back him.

The super PAC also issued a tougher response to Trump, suggesting he should leave Florida if he’s unhappy with DeSantis’ administration, accusing Trump of not supporting gun rights enough and siding with liberal Democrats.

“Trump should be fighting Democrats, not lying about Governor DeSantis,” a narrator says in one ad. “What happened to Donald Trump?”

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