The clash of the GOP titans didn’t happen after all in the Hawkeye State.
Former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis were scheduled to make separate campaign stops in Iowa Saturday. DeSantis flipped burgers and chops at a picnic fundraiser in western Iowa before heading to a state GOP fundraiser Saturday evening on the other side of the state. Severe weather — including tornados — forced the cancelation of Trump’s outdoor rally late Saturday afternoon in Des Moines.
It would have marked the first time Trump, the frontrunner in the GOP presidential nomination chase, and DeSantis, Trump’s closest Republican Party rival, campaigned in the first-in-the-nation caucus state on the same day.
“Unfortunately, due to the Tornado Warnings in Des Moines, we are forced to cancel today’s outdoor Rally at the Lauridsen Amphitheater,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform. “Stay tuned, we will reschedule soon. Be safe out there!”
It was DeSantis’ second trip to Iowa since March as he edges closer to officially announcing his White House run, an announcement expected to come any day.
At U.S. Representative Randy Feenstra’s (R-IA-04) 3rd Annual Feenstra Family Picnic Fundraiser in Sioux Center, DeSantis, without naming names, took aim at Trump. The former president has relentlessly attacked the Florida governor, badgering him with nicknames like “Ron DeSanctimonious” and hammering him about his declining poll numbers.
“Governing is not about entertaining. Governing is not about building a brand or talking on social media and virtue signaling,” DeSantis said to a hearty crowd. “It’s ultimately about winning and producing results.” He warned that the Republican Party must push back against a “culture of losing,” a nod at assertions from some that Trump would not be able to beat Democrat President Joe Biden in a re-match.
He mostly stayed on script, talking up the success of his conservative agenda in the Sunshine State and playing on his “Never Back Down” image — a narrative pushed deep into the Hawkeye State by the deep-pocketed super PAC by the same name backing DeSantis.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds helped welcome DeSantis to the event. The Florida Republican praised the work of the Midwest Red State chief executive who has used strong Republican majorities in the Legislature to enact one of the most sweeping universal school choice programs in the nation and a litany of government reforms.
“I was here in March and someone kind of took note and they were like, ‘Man, look at all the stuff Iowa is doing. Iowa is like the Florida of the Midwest,’ they said. But I just wanted to let you know that after watching all of the good stuff you’ve done in Iowa, it may be that Florida is the Iowa of the Southeast,” DeSantis said, to warm applause.
The popular Florida governor returned to Iowa with endorsements from some Hawkeye State heavy hitters. Iowa Senate President Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) and House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) announced they are all-in on DeSantis.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Sinclair said DeSantis has led in lowering taxes, empowering parents and easing regulations, akin to the successes conservative lawmakers have had in Iowa.
“He’s put them into play in Florida,” she told the newspaper. “He’s proven that he can do this work. He’s proven that he can get reelected and can continue to do that work even in the face of opposition. And I can’t think of a better person to serve as our president and really, honestly move America forward.”
While Sinclair and Windschitl are among the more powerful politicians in Iowa, Trump would tell you his endorsement list is longer.
At a March campaign stop in the Quad Cities, Trump name-dropped several power brokers backing him in Corn Country, including state Senate President Pro Tempore Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), said to be the first Iowa lawmaker to back Trump in his 2016 run, former U.S. Representative Rod Blum and former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker.
Trump, who declared his candidacy in November, boasts a huge lead over his competitors. RealClearPolitics’ average of national Republican presidential primary polls has the former president at 53.5 percent, a 31.3 percent lead over DeSantis (22.2%), his nearest challenger.
Trump’s lead over DeSantis isn’t nearly as wide in Iowa, but still formidable, at nearly 20 percentage points, according to a new National Research Inc. poll commissioned by the Center for American Greatness. The survey of 500 likely 2024 Republican Presidential Caucus voters found that 44 percent of respondents favored Trump compared to 26 percent who backed DeSantis.
That poll found former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley at 6 percent, former Vice President Mike Pence with 4 percent, and Ohio businessman and political outsider Vivek Ramaswamy at 3 percent. Several other declared and presumptive GOP candidates track with 1 percent or less, with 12 percent of respondents undecided.
Haley and Ramaswamy have made several campaign trips to Iowa since announcing their campaigns in February, including multi-city tours this week.
Ramaswamy made headlines during his five-day trip this week, calling for a constitutional amendment changing the minimum voting age to 25, giving those 18 to 24 the ability to vote if they complete military or first responder service or pass the same civics test immigrants are made to take.
“Our military currently suffers a 25% recruitment deficit, and only 16 percent of Gen Z say they’re proud to be American,” Ramaswamy said. “The absence of national pride is a serious threat to the future of our country,” said Vivek Ramaswamy. “We must think ambitiously about reviving civic duty in America.”
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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Ron DeSantis in Iowa” by Ron DeSantis.