Trump returns to Iowa for another rally and needles the state’s governor for endorsing DeSantis

Trump returns to Iowa for another rally and needles the state's governor for endorsing DeSantis
Published: Nov. 18, 2023 at 10:57 AM CST
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FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — Donald Trump will campaign Saturday in west-central Iowa as part of his fall push to sign up supporters and volunteers before the state’s fast-approaching caucuses that kick off the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump is expected to headline an organizing rally in Fort Dodge, a GOP-leaning hub, the latest in a series of targeted regional stops aimed at seizing on the large crowds the former president draws to press attendees to commit to voting for him on Jan. 15.

He has visited five times since late September before the midday event set for Fort Dodge High School. While Trump has had a comfortable edge over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in early polls of likely caucus participants, Trump’s campaign has been more aggressive in Iowa than any of the other early-voting states.

Trump said Thursday on a radio show that DeSantis was “doing very poorly” even after winning the endorsement of Gov. Kim Reynolds, who broke with the general practice of Iowa governors not to support a candidate before the caucuses. “I was really good to her and then she said she was going to remain neutral. And I said, ‘That’s OK,’ but I didn’t really want her particularly,” he told host Simon Conway.

“Ron is doing very poorly in the polls and I guess he put a full-court press on her,” Trump said. “And she did that. And that’s fine. I think it’s fine. I don’t think it’s made any difference.”

DeSantis, who stopped by his campaign’s new office in Urbandale on Saturday, told reporters that Trump was making missteps by attacking Reynolds and focusing on larger rallies.

“I think it’s been a mistake how he’s not been willing to engage with Iowans outside of swooping in and doing, you know, a speech and then just leaving,” DeSantis said. “I think you got to get on the ground, you got to shake the hands, you got to answer their questions.”

DeSantis was campaigning across southern Iowa, moving closer to his goal of campaigning in all 99 counties. That’s a traditional marker some candidates have tried to reach to show their commitment to Iowa.

Trump has made regular stops in Iowa, appearing at eight events before audiences totaling more than 16,000, according to Trump’s Secret Service detail, in the past eight weeks.

It’s part of Trump’s 2024 strategy to stress organization more than his campaign did in 2016, when he finished a competitive second place.

Rivals, especially DeSantis, have been in Iowa more often as they hope to score a better-than-expected finish against Trump, who also leads in national Republican polls.

A recent memo to donors from DeSantis’ campaign suggested that DeSantis’ all-in strategy in Iowa was in keeping with his hope to rob Trump of “a big win in Iowa.”