Campaign Trail Roundup: GOP Presidential Candidates Make Pitches at Iowa State Fair, DeSantis Booed at Iowa Racetrack

DES MOINES, Iowa — What a wild weekend in Iowa.

The presidential candidates who turned out for the Iowa State Fair came close to outnumbering the selections of food on a stick at the Iowa State Fair. Former President Donald Trump eschewed the usual fair stops to mingle with fairgoers while rubbing salt in the wounds of his closest competitor. And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was greeted by a chorus of boos at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway.

Trump Town

The top question asked Saturday by the assembled masses at the fairgrounds was not, “Who’s performing at the Grandstand?” Or, “What’s in the Iowa Twinkie?” But, “When will Trump be here?”

Despite most of the presidential candidates making appearances at the annual bacchanalia of fried food and farm animals, Trump buzz filled the fair.

Trump being Trump, the former President refused to play by the rules. Unlike his rivals competing for the GOP presidential nomination, opted not to appear at Republican Governor Kim Reynolds’ “Fair-Side Chats.” The softball question sessions were well attended and important PR opportunities for the candidates, but frontrunner Trump — in kickoff caucus state Iowa and the rest of the nation —- made his own scene.

He mixed and mingled with Hawkeye Staters, ultimately holding a rally with several Florida Republican U.S. Representatives who back his campaign. In live trolling DeSantis with Sunshine State supporters, Trump took his attack directly to his closest competitor, even as the Florida governor loses ground in Iowa and national polls.

A new poll by Redfield Wllton Strategies finds 42 percent of the 1,500 U.S. likely voters surveyed said they would vote for Trump in the 2024 general election, compared to 40 percent for President Joe Biden. The same poll found DeSantis down 7 points to Biden in a hypothetical matchup (41 percent to 34 percent). The poll shows Biden leading top-tier GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy by 5 percentage points (41% to 36%).

Trump’s Florida endorsers at the fair included U.S. Reps. Byron Donalds (R-FL-19) Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL-13), and Matt Gaetz (R-FL-01).

A very pregnant Luna told an overflow crowd at the popular Steer N’ Stein restaurant on the fairgrounds, “As an Air Force veteran, there is only one person I trust with the future of this country right now.” Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t DeSantis, who has proudly promoted his military service. Trump did not serve.

As he strolled through the throngs of fairgoers, Trump was repeatedly asked by reporters about the three (soon presumably four) indictments against him.

“The whole thing is a fake and it was put out by Biden,” he said after being asked about a federal judge’s latest order in one of two federal indictments he’s contesting. “And they put it out because they can’t win an election the fair way. It’s called election interference.”

All around the former president supporters could be heard chanting, “Good luck Trump!” “Greatest President Ever.” “We love Donald Trump.”

Fair Race

Trump continued to pick at DeSantis, down 40 percentage points in the latest RealClearPolitics average of Republican primary polls.

“He had a very small crowd,” Trump said of DeSantis’ event with Reynolds. “Only had a few people show up.” That wasn’t true. It was standing room only at the Fair-Side chat.

And DeSantis signs seemed to be everywhere outside and inside the fairgrounds, with his supporters serving as a small army against Trump backers.

The Florida governor, like Trump, skipped the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox. He did make it to Iowa’s Knoxville Speedway Saturday evening, again alongside Reynolds. When the governor introduced DeSantis to the 25,000 on hand for the Knoxville Nationals, the presidential candidate was greeted with a chorus of boos, presumably from the Trump faithful on hand.

“Go back to Florida,” one man shouted from the bleachers, the New York Times reported.

Vivek’s Day at the Fair

Per usual, Ramaswamy seemed to be everywhere all at once at the fair, as he has been ubiquitous on the campaign trail over his six-month run. Ramaswamy, who turned 38 this week, is the youngest candidate in the GOP presidential nomination chase and the first millennial Republican to run for president.

The Ohio entrepreneur and his physician wife Apoovra took their young children on some rides at the fair’s famed Thrill Town, in between Vivek laying down some dope Eminem gems with the governor. By the time the couple joined WHO Radio talk show host Simon Conway in the Crystal Studio mid Saturday afternoon, the kids were enjoying some nap time.

But there was no rest for Ramaswamy, who is jumping from Iowa to first-in-the-nation primary state New Hampshire this week.

Apoovra said her husband’s run for the White House has been a tremendous experience.

“We’re on campaign trail together. We get to talk to people all over the country and we get to talk about our beliefs and values. That’s part of what we love about this,” she told Conway.

Ramaswamy criticized Attorney General Merrick Garland for once again playing politics and protecting President Joe Biden’s troubled son Hunter in naming a special counsel and delaying criminal proceedings.

“The same prosecutor for the reprehensible plea deal a judge resoundingly rejected is now supposed  to be the ‘special counsel,’ Ramaswamy said. “It’s a deflective tactic. We have absolutely two standards of justice … The fact that they are being as devious as they are shows how deep the rot runs.”

RFK’s Iowa Plans

Conway also welcomed to the fair presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has been notably absent from the Hawkeye State thus far. The Kennedy family scion said that’s about to change.

“I basically feel I am moving to Iowa, so I will be spending a lot of time here between now and January,” RFK Jr. told the talk show host.

It remains to be seen what the Iowa Democratic Party will ultimately do with its caucuses after the Democratic National Committee bumped Iowa back in the nominating lineup schedule. At this point, the state party is playing ball with the national party, but Iowa law demands the Hawkeye State deliver the first-in-the nation caucus.

The challenger to the incumbent for the Democratic Party presidential nomination is trailing Biden by big numbers, but he’s been polling double digits since announcing his campaign in April. Kennedy, a controversial critic of the COVID vaccines, said he’s got the chops to beat Biden and, ultimately the GOP candidate.

“We’re getting a lot of support now all over the country. I think more and more people want to see the end of the polarization in our country, and they want to hear politicians that are telling them the truth,” he said. “I think even the Democrats on the far left side of the party will ultimately open their arms to me because the main thing they want to prevent is Donald Trump being president.”

Asked if he’d consider running as VP with Donald Trump, Kennedy quickly said, “No.”

Asked if he would consider serving as health secretary in a Republican White House, he said he’d have to check with his wife, actress Cheryl Hines, a staunch liberal.

“I don’t want to get a divorce,” Kennedy said, sounding only half joking.

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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Image “Trump at the Iowa Fair” by Dan Scavino.



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