Trump, Trailed by Prosecutors and DeSantis, Aims to Shore Up Iowa Support

Trump, Trailed by Prosecutors and DeSantis, Aims to Shore Up Iowa Support

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Ron DeSantis may be a rising star among Republicans, but the way Donald J. Trump’s arrival brought downtown Davenport to a standstill on Monday suggested the former president, at least for now, is the center of the party galaxy remains.

Residents of the Mississippi River city had one of the first opportunities in the country for a head-to-head comparison between the two Republicans who led the party’s early presidential election, Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis, the governor of Florida.

Three days after Mr. DeSantis drew a strong crowd of 1,000 for a speech on a freezing Friday morning, Mr. Trump’s arrival at 2 p.m. Monday afternoon halted traffic. The enthusiastic Trump crowd, wrapped in Trump flags and clad in fake pro-Trump shirts — “Jesus, Trump & Freedom,” read one — began standing in the 2,400 crowd at 7 a.m. for an event 11 hours later to queue for seats – only Adler Theater.

The dichotomy highlighted the huge rift between the two politicians at this embryonic stage of the 2024 presidential campaign. The Republican frontrunner is a 76-year-old politician who, after a life in the public eye, is seeking the White House for a third straight year. His main potential rival is a 44-year-old governor whose book tour last week was his first visit to Iowa as he decides whether to run for the White House.

But while Mr. Trump has cemented his standing in national polls in recent weeks, he has returned to Iowa with prosecutors and political competitors on his heels.

In Manhattan, prosecutors have signaled the former president is likely to face criminal charges for his role in paying hush money to a porn star. On Monday, just hours before Mr. Trump took the stage in Iowa, Michael Cohen, his former fixer, testified before a grand jury as a key witness for prosecutors who appear to be closing in on an indictment against the former president.

And he faces new political vulnerabilities after the 2022 midterm elections marked the third straight election cycle to end in disappointment for Republicans.

Who is running for President in 2024?

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The race begins. Four years after a historically large number of candidates ran for president, the field for the 2024 campaign is starting small and likely to be led by the same two men who ran last time: President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump. Here’s who’s been in the race so far, and who else might run:

donald trump The former president is running to regain the office he lost in 2020. Though he’s lost some clout in the Republican Party — and faces multiple legal investigations — he retains a large and dedicated base of supporters, and he could be backed in the primary by several challengers, splitting a limited anti-Trump vote .

Nikki Haley. The former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador to Mr. Trump has presented herself as a member of “a new generation of leaders” and emphasized her life experience as the daughter of Indian immigrants. She’s long been considered a rising GOP star, but her attraction to the party has waned as she kept hugging Mr Trump.

Marianne Williams. The self-help author and former spiritual advisor to Oprah Winfrey is the first Democrat to officially run. At the start of her second presidential campaign, Ms Williamson called Mr Biden a “weak choice” and said the party should not fear primaries. Few in Democratic politics take their entry into the race seriously.

Even former Vice President Mike Pence gave his two-time running mate his strongest public rebuke yet, saying Saturday that “history will hold Donald Trump accountable for the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.” Mr Pence called the riot “a disgrace”.

Speaking to reporters Monday on his private flight to Iowa, Mr. Trump responded by blaming Mr. Pence for the attack on the Capitol and ridiculing his single-digit poll numbers in hypothetical primary polls. Mr Pence has not said if he will run for president in 2024.

“Had he sent the votes back to lawmakers, they wouldn’t have had a problem with January 6,” Mr Trump said, according to Bloomberg News. “So in a lot of ways you can blame him for January 6th.”

Mr. Trump has also become aware of Mr. DeSantis’ rise in Republican circles and has focused on the whereabouts of the Florida governor, the size of the crowd and book sales in both private conversations and public posts on his social media site .

Mr. Trump announced his stop in Davenport only after details of Mr. DeSantis’ book tour were released. He’s spent a lot of time on social media in recent weeks posting results of public polls that show him ahead of the Florida governor with Republican voters.

In Davenport, Mr. Trump presented his event as a keynote address focused on education, but made little mention of the issue. Instead, he contested the 2020 election results and received a rapturous ovation for saying he will defy Covid-19 vaccine and mask mandates. After a 75-minute speech, he spent 20 minutes answering questions from the audience.

He also took on Mr. DeSantis directly, which drew a mix of applause and groans from the crowd. He attacked Mr. DeSantis over attempts to cut ethanol production and said the Florida governor wanted to “decimate” Social Security and Medicare by supporting proposals that would have raised the age to receive benefits.

“He’s going to do that again,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. DeSantis while pledging to protect the two entitlement programs.

Mr. Trump also attempted to position Mr. DeSantis, one of the founding members of the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus, as a figure of the Republican establishment. He said the Florida governor is a clone of Senator Mitt Romney of Utah and an ally of Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives and Fox Corporation board member. Both comparisons were booed by the crowd.

“Ron was a student of Paul Ryan, who was a RINO loser who is currently destroying Fox,” Mr. Trump said.

Christel Seemann, a 54-year-old physician, attended the events for both Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Trump. She said she was undecided which one she would return.

“Both represent strong Christian values ​​and common sense,” said Ms. Seemann. “I wish they could run together.”

Mr. DeSantis has so far declined to directly confront Mr. Trump publicly, a decision that could call into question the brand he has promoted as one of his party’s most ruthless political thugs.

But his approach could also appeal to a party that has overwhelmingly positive views of the former president. Mr. DeSantis has instead made thinly-veiled contrasts with Mr. Trump, telling the crowd that his administration in Tallahassee was free of leaks and chaos — like the kind that often plagued the Trump White House — and that Dr . Anthony S Fauci who had been one of Mr Trump’s key advisers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr. DeSantis has so thoroughly eliminated Mr. Trump from his public speaking that references to him can be found chilling. During his speech in Des Moines Friday, Mr. DeSantis said the nation does need a wall along the southern border. But the crowd — which had returned Mr. DeSantis with a rapturous ovation throughout the event — responded with muted applause and murmurs at the mention of one of Mr. Trump’s signature issues.

Jim Dirk, a 61-year-old dental technician who attended a DeSantis event on Friday, said he would support Mr. Trump as a candidate but was interested in finding another option.

“His politics were fine, but he was too flamboyant with his message,” said Mr. Dirk.

Still, there are clear comparisons between Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis in the campaign.

Both savor even the smallest of details as they retell the story of their biggest electoral victories, both insist the mainstream news media is after them, and both rely on a healthy dose of superlatives when discussing their book sales.

But there were many in the Trump crowd who said they saw many differences.

“DeSantis is just too young and I don’t think he’s ready for the world stage,” said Cathy Sorrells, a 70-year-old retiree, who wore a red, white and blue Trump hat on Monday. “I like what he did in Florida, but Trump is the man – he’s done it before and he can do it again.”

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2023-03-14 14:15:35