Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis Aims at Trump as 2024 Rivals Hold Competing Events at the Iowa State Fair

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump didn’t meet face-to-face at the Iowa State Fair as they courted voters Saturday. However, Gov. DeSantis aimed at Trump, the overwhelming front-runner for their party’s 2024 nomination. Supporters of the former president repeatedly heckled the Florida governor as he made his rounds around the fairgrounds in a state necessary to the White House bid as the state kicks off the GOP presidential nominating calendar.

DeSantis has been working to change the narrative after several setbacks over the past few months. The setbacks triggered weeks of negative coverage that spotlighted his campaign’s staff layoffs, overspending, leadership change, and other stumbles. 

Former President Trump started blasting Gov. DeSantis months ago before the Florida governor officially announced his candidacy in late May and announced Tuesday that he would show up the same day at the state fair the same day as DeSantis. 

“We’ve now done 38 out of the 99 counties. We did counties yesterday,” said DeSantis, spotlighting his tour through the first caucus state. “That’s really what it’s all about. And when you go there, you bring the message. People do respond. We’re seeing that on the ground.”

However, as DeSantis sat down with GOP Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa for her “fair side chats,” he was met with several protestors blowing whistles. A plane flying a “Be Likeable Ron!” banner circled overhead. In a tradition for presidential contenders at the fair, Governor DeSantis was greeted with chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump” by supporters of the former president. Former President Trump’s plan flew over the fairgrounds only moments later.

Former President Trump, who earlier in the summer criticized Gov. Reynolds for remaining neutral in the race for the Republican presidential nomination competition, was the only GOP candidate attending the fair to not sit down with the governor for her chats.

DeSantis blasted his rival when asked if Trump was missing out on an opportunity by not joining the governor at the fair.

“I think Donald Trump’s attacks on Kim Reynolds are totally out of bounds. I couldn’t disagree with it anymore. And she’s done nothing but do a great job. She’s never done anything to him,” said DeSantis.

The Florida governor argued, “That’s just how he operates — to attack one of the best governors in the country…I disagree with the attacks against her. He’s way out of bounds, and at the end of the day, I’m glad that Kim Reynolds is at the helm here in the state of Iowa.”

Trump hasn’t committed to participating in the GOP debate on August 23

The former president has not yet committed to taking the stage at the first GOP presidential nomination debate. The debate will be a Fox News-hosted showdown in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on August 23. Trump will not confirm if he’ll attend the debate and said last week he wouldn’t sign a Republican National Committee loyalty pledge to qualify for the face-off.

“We have signed the pledge to support the nominee because, ultimately the mission of reversing the country’s decline is bigger than any one person,” said DeSantis. “I think I’ll be the nominee, and we’ll get the job done, but at the end of the day, you don’t take your ball and go home. It’s not just about you. You’ve got to be willing to stand up and support the team.”

Without mentioning Trump by name, DeSantis said, “Someone’s not willing to do that, that just shows you they’re running — their campaign’s more about them than about the broader public and the American people…I think every candidate should agree to support the nominee.”

During his many stops at the fair, Trump didn’t mention DeSantis.