US DeSantis competes with Trump for influence over Iowa conservatives

US: DeSantis competes with Trump for influence over Iowa conservatives


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned of a “Republican culture of losing” and sought to weaken former President Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican Party on Saturday as the party’s top presidential candidates clashed on the battlefield in Iowa.

DeSantis, who is expected to announce his 2024 presidential campaign every day, briefly threw burgers and pork chops at a fundraiser picnic at the Sioux Center that drew hundreds of conservatives to the state’s northwest corner. But he largely focused on formal speeches to encourage his willingness to embrace conservative cultural struggles and peppered his remarks with indirect taunts against Trump.

“Governing is not entertaining. Governing isn’t about building a brand or talking on social media and pointing out virtue,” said DeSantis, who wore a blue shirt with no tie or jacket. “Ultimately, it’s about winning and getting results.”

Trump, a candidate since November, had hoped to demonstrate his political prowess later in the day with a large outdoor rally in the capital, Des Moines.

Though Trump and DeSantis were supposed to be hundreds of miles apart, the split-screen moment in the opening stages of the GOP primary offered a preview of the duel between the two Republican leaders. Trump is well ahead of his rivals in the first nationwide polls, while DeSantis is considered the strongest potential challenger.

After a tumultuous week, Trump returned to the comfort of the campaign stage.

On Tuesday, a civil jury in New York found him guilty of sexual molestation and defamation of advice columnist E. Jean Carroll and awarded him $5 million. A day later, during a controversial CNN town hall event, he repeatedly insulted Carroll, reiterated lies about his 2020 election defeat and downplayed the violence at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

DeSantis has cemented his reputation as a conservative governor willing to push conservative policies and even start a political row with Disney, which he highlighted at the Sioux Center. But so far, he hasn’t shown the same enthusiasm to go head-to-head with Trump, who has been focused almost exclusively on bringing down DeSantis for months.

DeSantis devoted much of his remarks to his support of conservative cultural priorities, including his opposition to diversity and equity programs in public schools and laws aimed at restricting the rights of transgender people.

But in another indirect jab at Trump, he pointed to the Republican Party’s recent string of electoral losses. He didn’t say it specifically, but Republicans have struggled in every national election since Trump won in 2016.

“We must reject the culture of losing that has shaped our party in recent years. “The time for excuses is over,” DeSantis said. “If we get distracted, if we focus the election on the past or on other side issues, then I think the Democrats will beat us again.”
It’s unclear if DeSantis’ political successes in Florida can be replicated on the national stage.

Even before he officially enters the race, he is faced with the question of whether he will be able to recruit donors and attract voters.
The visit to Iowa, his second in two months, should help ease concerns about his sometimes uncomfortable personal attractiveness as he met with Republican officials, donors and volunteers under the scrutiny of the national media. But DeSantis took little time for selfies or shaking hands at the Sioux Center, where more than 600 people had gathered to watch him at an event intended as a family picnic for US Representative Randy Feenstra.

After his speech, DeSantis ran through the crowd, ignoring the reporters.

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