As the six-month rush to the Iowa caucuses begins, the broad Republican presidential candidate is under increasing pressure to prove he can be a serious challenger to former President Donald Trump. there is
There is a particular sense of urgency for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who entered the race in May with the hope that he would soon become Trump’s biggest rival. For now, though, he has struggled to generate a Trump-like frenzy among Republican supporters, and it’s unclear whether he’ll pose the sort of threat the former president once expected.
“That’s what DeSantis wanted. He could still be,” said Gentry, the veteran Iowa and national Republican strategist who led Mitt Romney’s caucus campaign in 2008. Collins said. “But it certainly doesn’t look like it to me. It has become clear that there is no room for Trump to be replaced.”
DeSantis was among six White House candidates to attend the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa on Friday, which included former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. An audience of nearly 2,000 conservative Christians turned out to see him interviewed individually. President Trump didn’t attend, but has toured the state several times in recent weeks and is expected to return on Tuesday.
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DeSantis and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy were the loudest out of a packed hall at the event center in downtown Des Moines, especially when they argued that the US military’s role in helping Ukraine should be more limited. received loud cheers.
“Europe needs to do more. This is their backyard,” said Mr. DeSantis, who applauded.
But Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who chose the event to sign the recently passed six-week abortion ban, received the loudest and most sustained standing ovation when she took the stage. . Although she has been publicly neutral in the campaign, she has appeared with other candidates, and she has been criticized by President Trump for appearing with DeSantis at a campaign event in the state.
There is still time for any candidate to mount a stronger challenge to Mr. Trump, but not much. Iowa will hold its first national caucuses on January 15th.
Besides Mr. DeSantis, Mr. Tim Scott is also under heavy scrutiny. The South Carolina senator has impressed many with an agenda as conservative as the one proposed by Trump and DeSantis. Some say Scott distinguishes himself with an aggressive outreach strategy combined with an upbeat message.
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Mike DeMastas, a Des Moines evangelical pastor whom I have met several times, said, “Scott is doing a really hard job in retail politics in Iowa, forming small groups with pastors and churches and getting more and more. It’s because they’re leading them to big gatherings and venues,” he said. with Scott.
Carlson said he took note of reports of growing interest in Scott and said senators had expressed hopes for funding.
“I’m happy to hear that people are flocking to me,” Scott said. “I wish they would go out and write a check for us too, because we haven’t seen it yet. is millions of stories.”
Trump is the undisputed leader in Iowa, just as he wields great influence with Republicans across the country. That makes Iowa particularly important for those who want to stop him. Given the relatively early dates for the caucuses, a big victory for Trump in Iowa could put him in a better position for the rest of the campaign.
“Right now, there is no doubt that Donald Trump is winning in Iowa,” said former Iowa Republican state congressional public relations adviser and supporter of the state party, but he is neutral in the 2024 election campaign. said Josie Albrecht of “I think he’s had a lot of support over the years, but that’s a tough wall to break down.”
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President Trump embraces those high expectations with enthusiasm. His campaign is bullish on Iowa, building on its longstanding support in the state, which won two handily in general elections, combined with an aggressive digital campaign focused on non-traditional conservative voters. ing.
But Trump faces several vulnerabilities, including the feud over Iowa’s popular Governor Reynolds’ refusal to formally endorse his campaign. Many within his party see his recent indictments in New York and Florida as politically motivated, but they still risk being held accountable for what his rivals seek to exploit. .
In a memo shared last month with donors to the influential network founded by Charles and David Koch, Michael Palmer, who heads the organization’s data and polling efforts, wrote: “Trump is inevitable. He opposed what he called the “myth of He noted that a significant number of Trump voters are still open to the Republican alternative, citing polls that show DeSantis may be a stronger general election candidate against President Joe Biden.
But the central challenge for Republicans is to hone a message that resonates with voters who have supported Trump so far but are open to others in 2024.
Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of Operation Koch Brothers, is working to blatantly undermine President Trump in Iowa and other early voting states. The group’s paid staff and volunteers have been knocking on thousands of doors a week in Iowa since February, asking questions about Trump’s chances of winning a general election, according to state director Drew Klein. It is said that they are throwing.
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This approach has worried some within the Republican Party. Bernie Hayes of the Cedar Rapids Republican Party, who is chairman of the GOP in Iowa’s second-most-populous county, was shocked when Klein told the public last week that they shouldn’t support Trump at the caucuses. said he received it.
“Why would you say something against Donald Trump when the majority of people support him?” I asked if there is. “That message is going to lose a lot of time.”
The most outspoken Trump deniers have not made it to Iowa. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example, was not visiting New Jersey as a candidate for the 2024 election, nor was he included in Friday’s speaker list. He’s committed to liberal voters in New Hampshire.
Another candidate critical of President Trump, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, on Friday rejected a 2021 law banning a COVID-19 vaccine and gender-affirming treatment for transgender youth. He had an awkward exchange with Mr. Carlson when conservative commentators lashed out at Mr. Hutchinson over rights.
“Is it therapy to prevent him from going through the natural process of puberty?” Carlson asked, interrupting Hutchinson as he tried to move on. “This is one of the biggest problems in this country.”
The audience applauded Mr. Carlson, and Mr. Hutchinson tried to emphasize his position that parents, not the state, should be the guiding force for their children, but the audience was silent on this point.
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Similarly, on Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress was certifying the results of the 2020 election, former Vice President Mike Pence told the audience that he “has no right to refuse to vote for the electoral vote,” which was callous. received a reaction. Defending his position that military aid to Ukraine is a national security interest for the United States, he was jeered.
When Carlson challenged Pence’s commitment to domestic priorities, Pence said, “Whoever says we can’t be the leaders of the free world and solve our domestic problems is the greatest man on earth. I have a very narrow view of the nation that is the only one,” he said.
Mr. DeSantis may ultimately be best positioned for a long-running battle with Mr. Trump. DeSantis almost certainly has the cash to stay in the race long after the Iowa Republican vote.
But DeSantis’ recovery will almost certainly be based on his good performance in Iowa. Some in the state say he took his chance by continuing to provoke conservative anger about transgender rights and racial equality.
“People love what they hear from him,” Demastus, a pastor from Des Moines, said. “He speaks an evangelical language of love, protects our children, and resists awakened ideologies.”
People’s reports from New York.