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Trump, DeSantis to headline competing Iowa events as feud heats up between GOP hopefuls
Trump rally comes days after a New York jury finds him liable for sexual abuse
Former President Donald Trump will headline a rally in Des Moines on the same day — Saturday — that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is set to attend fundraising events in the state as the feud between the two over the Republican nomination for president heats up.
Trump will rally supporters at the Lauridsen Amphitheater at Water Works Park in Des Moines. It marks his second visit to Iowa since launching his 2024 campaign, marking his third bid for the White House.
It also comes on the heels of a New York jury on Tuesday finding Trump liable for sexually abusing advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in 1996, awarding her $5 million in a judgment. The verdict in the civil case could haunt the former president as he campaigns to regain the White House.
And other GOP presidential candidates and potential contenders, including DeSantis, South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, former Vice President Mike Pence, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, are wooing Iowa’s influential evangelical faith leaders to pry them away from the embattled former president, who is the subject of several lawsuits and criminal investigations.
Doors at Trump’s rally in the park open at 2 p.m. Saturday and he is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at donaldjtrump.com/events.
Trump last visited Iowa in March for a rally in Davenport, where he took shots at DeSantis, seen as Trump’s main rival for the 2024 GOP nomination.
DeSantis has not officially announced a presidential campaign, but is reportedly nearing a decision. He has been holding events and hiring staff in early states, including in Iowa, the early hallmarks of a campaign.
Never Back Down, a pro-DeSantis super PAC, also has been courting support from Iowa Republicans through television ads, online videos and mailings.
Trump’s campaign and the two super PACs supporting the top two Republican presidential hopefuls — MAGA Inc., which is backing Trump, and Never Back Down — have aired a wave of dueling TV attack ads in recent weeks.
Trump’s campaign released an ad at the end of April painting DeSantis as disloyal in considering launching a rival presidential bid against his former ally.
In the ad, a narrator recounts how Trump's 2018 endorsement of DeSantis played a significant role in his underdog win in that year's Florida Republican gubernatorial primary. The spot includes footage of a 2018 campaign ad of DeSantis fawning over Trump — it shows DeSantis reading Trump's book to his infant son and teaching his young daughter to "build the wall" with blocks.
Never Back Down has gone after Trump for his recent attacks on the popular Florida governor and his claims that DeSantis wants to dismantle Social Security.
"Donald Trump is being attacked by a Democrat prosecutor in New York, so why is he spending millions attacking the Republican governor of Florida?" the ad begins. "Trump is stealing pages from the Biden-Pelosi playbook, repeating lies about Social Security."
The Florida governor will headline Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra’s annual fundraiser and later speak at a party fundraiser in Cedar Rapids Saturday evening.
Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann will host a reception and lead an interview-style discussion with DeSantis beginning at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids. Cost is $100 per person and $175 per couple. Details of the party fundraiser are available at iowagop.org/cedar_rapids_reception_desantis.
Trump regularly leads 2024 Republican presidential primary public opinion polls, with DeSantis often taking second place.
Many Iowa Republicans remain committed to Trump. However, the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll from March shows support for the former president has slipped as campaigning begins to heat up ahead of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation 2024 GOP presidential caucuses. The poll shows Trump’s favorability numbers put him about on par with DeSantis. But a greater share of Iowa Republicans (18 percent) view Trump unfavorably compared with DeSantis (6 percent).
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