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Signing books and babysitting, DeSantis tests his retail skills in Iowa

PoliticsElectionsSigning books and babysitting, DeSantis tests his retail skills in Iowa
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Davenport, Iowa — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stayed for nearly a half hour after finishing his speech here, asking for Face Time voters sticking around in this crucial early nominating state.

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He signed copies of his new memoir with a Sharpie. He kept the kids. He smiled for photos until the crowd dispersed — though he spent most of the meet-and-greet separated by a barrier of bike racks. It marked a contrast to some earlier stops across the country where the potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate hurried offstage or barred press. access.

Scott County GOP chairwoman Jeanita McNulty said, “It’s a one-off time in Iowa, so if a candidate isn’t willing to do it, it hurts their campaign.” Friday came out for DeSantis’ start.

The trip served as a trial run for a politician largely untested on the retail circuit in early states. Some donors and others who know DeSantis have questioned his enthusiasm for the small, meet-and-greet setting he regularly runs for national office. Former President Donald Trump, who is making a third straight run for the White House, has over the years used his independent style to fire up many Republicans at his rallies and has recently focused on smaller-scale stops .

for DeSantis’ speech A crowd of hundreds here in Davenport reflected the enthusiasm that Florida’s governor has already mustered for the presidential election. His visit marked a new phase in his 2024 preparations as he takes his first swing through early-nomination states that put a premium on in-person interactions with candidates. On Friday evening, he spoke to more than a thousand people at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, a mandatory venue for presidential candidates.

Afterwards he lashed his pen from one outstretched book to another, a serious look on his face, struggling with the crowd that was clamoring for his attention.

“Please don’t ask her a question,” said an event staffer when a reporter wandered over to observe.

DeSantis (R) hit his usual talking points in his speech, contrasting Democratic-led states with Florida and denouncing the “elitist” and what he calls the “awakening” of everything Has become a catchy term for what Republicans deride as liberal excess.

“We were a bastion of freedom for people in this country and even around the world,” he said of his home state.

In Davenport, some attendees stood in the back after several hundred seats in the event center were filled. They stood, whistling and cheering as DeSantis did his usual round of applause. He took particularly great delight when he criticized Anthony Fauci, one of the leaders in the US response corona virusAnd touted its move last year to fly undocumented immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.

Trump will also be in Davenport on Monday, as his team hopes to draw contrasts with DeSantis over in-person politicking and highlight his surprising pauses in between speeches. A pollster said leaders in eastern Iowa are expected to endorse Trump on Monday.

Lots of GOP leaders showed up for DeSantis in Iowa, from state GOP chairman Jeff Kaufman to Rep. Marionette Miller-Meeks. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who appeared with several current or potential 2024 candidates, introduced DeSantis and took questions after his speech.

DeSantis is not expected to jump into the presidential race until the Florida legislative session ends in May, but polling suggests he will be Trump’s most formidable opponent. The Florida governor’s event in Davenport was packed with two-time Trump voters who said they like his policies but now see DeSantis as a more effective leader for Republicans — a winner who gets things done.

“He tells his party what to do,” 21-year-old Johnathan Bartholomew, with a signed copy of DeSantis’ book under his arm, said to a crowd of attendees after thanking the governor for his handling of the coronavirus. He once knocked on doors for Trump but now favors DeSantis for 2024 and spent an hour and a half to see him.

DeSantis’ speech wasn’t much different from any other high-profile speech here they gave last weekend In California – a state that will hold its primary early in the calendar – at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. At that point, however, DeSantis briskly walked from the podium after his speech, waving to the crowd on the other side of the rope barrier but not stopping to meet face-to-face. His book signing at that event was closed to reporters.

This time, DeSantis stuck around for what Iowa GOP activist Matt Wells called “the usual political kiss-the-baby stuff,” urging people to jump in and take pictures. “‘Get the whole family,’ all that stuff.”

That’s important, Wells said — but mostly, he wants a presidential candidate who can point to policy victories. He said DeSantis has their vote and praised his wide margin of victory in November, in contrast to his narrow gubernatorial victory in 2018.

Wells said, “From winning by half a point to winning by almost 20 – the proof is in the pudding.”

DeSantis visited Iowa as some Republicans, including former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, who was also in Iowa on Friday, have already challenged Trump for the GOP nomination. Many others may still jump in. Kaufman said major 2024 contenders — announced and unannounced — have scrambled in recent weeks to find staff and scale up their operations in Iowa.

“All the major campaigns right now are very actively and intentionally building to that campaign,” he said. “We are getting a lot of requests for resumes and leads.”

A political committee that seeks to draft The race launched Thursday is likely to serve as an approved outside spending vehicle for DeSantis and his campaign, according to three people familiar with the plan who spoke on condition of anonymity to share private conversations. . DeSantis has been private about his 2024 plans to suggest he is still making up his mind, according to two other people familiar with his comments.

Posting on social media on Friday, Trump focused some of his attack on his co-sponsorship of a 2017 bill known as the Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination Act, which required blending of biofuels such as ethanol into the nation’s transportation fuels. will have finished. Iowa is the nation’s largest ethanol producer.

Trump said in another Truth Social post, “No other president was as pro farmer as I was.” “Tell that to Ron de Sanctimonius when he comes to your door, hat in hand. Tell him to go home!

A DeSantis representative did not respond to a request for comment.

Both Trump and Democratic officials sought to highlight DeSantis’ past support for dramatic changes to entitlement programs. While he was in Congress, DeSantis voted for three non-binding budget proposals that called for raising the retirement age and slowing future spending increases for Social Security. Speaking to Fox recently, he said that “we as Republicans are not going to mess with Social Security.”

Iowa’s Democratic Party chair Rita Hart told reporters, “I don’t know who is going to come out of this GOP primary, but the bottom line is that Iowans – and Americans – cannot tolerate an extreme agenda.”

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa poll published Friday showed 74 percent of Iowa Republicans viewed DeSantis favorably, compared to the 80 percent who viewed the former president favorably. But Trump’s unfavorable rating was higher — 18 percent of GOP voters viewed him unfavorably, compared to 6 percent who said the same about DeSantis.

Maeve Reston in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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