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Trump steps in to put the nail in DeSantis’ campaign coffin

It’s a remarkable investment of time from a candidate who, over the summer, has left a light footprint on the track And it’s being complemented by an airstrike from Trump World, as a pro-DeSantis PAC aggressively advertises in the state. MAGA Inc., the super PAC supporting Trump, is spending more than $700,000 on advertising this week in Iowa, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact. The Trump team in Iowa is focused on educating and training Trump supporters in the caucus process, and the Trump campaign has boasted 27,500 signed caucus pledge cards and 1,500 local volunteers in the state.

“No candidate has ever won Iowa [GOP caucus] by more than 12 points and even the most conservative polls have us at twice that margin,” said Alex Latcham, the Trump campaign’s first state director. “But I try to continually remind our team and our staff and everyone that we don’t take it for granted.”

Trump’s activity in the state comes as his rivals have been criss-crossing Iowa in hopes that they can somehow finally change the trajectory of the race, which is looking less competitive by the day. Trump is currently the runaway leader nationally, and in Iowa, he’s beating DeSantis in state polls by about 30 points. But veterans of the state’s caucuses say that lead may be overstated and that Trump is wise to try to put his foot on the pedal right now.

“If you look historically when the career starts to come together, and trajectory and momentum and that kind of stuff really starts to matter, it’s after Labor Day, after school has started. That’s when you go see the previous insurgent campaigns starting to gain traction like Huckabee, Santorum, etc.,” said veteran Iowa Republican operative Nicole Schlinger.

DeSantis, for his part, is betting much of his political fortune on Iowa. He’s been working out of Trump in the Hawkeye state, which comes with only 40 delegates but the potential for immeasurable momentum when the grueling primary season begins on Jan. 15, 2024. He has received 40 endorsements from state lawmakers, visited 58 of the state’s 99 counties and campaigned alongside the popular governor , Kim Reynolds, whom Trump has publicly announced. warned DeSantis’ team says it has secured about 13,000 written commitments from caucus attendees.

And the PAC that’s nearly running the Florida governor’s campaign has bought $15.6 million worth of ads in the state through November, according to AdImpact, more than triple the $2.9 million the PAC’s MAGA Inc. who supports Trump has spent.

“DeSantis will be competing in six different events in Iowa on Saturday. That means he’s doing more events in one day [than] Trump has planned to the Hawkeye state in the the next seven weeks,” DeSantis spokesman Andrew Romeo said in a recent email blast. “No wonder why Trump’s “allies are increasingly concerned that his lead in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucus isn’t built to last.” Ron DeSantis is working to win the Hawkeye state as Donald Trump continues to flip the Iowan bird.”

despite acknowledging that they would be satisfied with a strong second place finish in Iowa, DeSantis’ team is showing confidence in the state. He has been associated on several occasions with Reynolds and appears to be a prime candidate to receive the endorsement of evangelical Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader. (Vander Plaats has praised DeSantis and criticized Trump, but did not confirm last week who he plans to endorse.)

DeSantis toured the state over the weekend, joining U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst for an event in his hometown and attend a religious event at Fort Des Moines Church of Christ.

Conservative talk show host Steve Deace, who worked there Ted Cruzcampaign in 2016 and has endorsed DeSantis, he said he was still optimistic about DeSantis’ chances, in part because he believed Trump was still playing catch-up.

“As long as he’s really willing to campaign as a populist and not as a mest, yeah, I think he can generate buzz pretty quickly,” Deace said of Trump in a recent interview. “The question is when we get to a cold and bitter night on January 15. Is there still enough time for him to find the activists who will show up, come what may, and bring people with them? DeSantis has a lot of them and a lot of those who aren’t committed are probably waiting to see what Bob Vander Plaats and Kim Reynolds do.”

While DeSantis has been careful not to antagonize Trump supporters, he and his team have begun to question the former president’s operation in Iowa. During a Fox News interview last week, DeSantis expressed skepticism about the yawning gap in the polls between him and Trump, and questioned Trump’s operation in the Hawkeye State.

Trump’s opponents continue to see a vulnerability for him with the evangelical voters who populate Iowa, specifically because of his record on transgender and LGBTQ rights.

A flyer being sent to voters, which an Iowa Republican shared with POLITICO, calls Trump a “transgender pioneer” who “celebrated the victory of gay marriage at Mar-a-Lago party with Log Republicans Cabin”. Another thanks to Trump, apparently sarcastically, “for standing with LGBTQ+ Americans to fight closeted Republicans who won’t embrace change.” A third recalls that Iowan Trump allowed a transgender woman to compete in his Miss Universe pageant two decades ago. (During Trump’s campaign spoken harshly about transgender people).

The origin of the senders is not clear. But the message does reflect the DeSantis team’s attacks on Trump, as they seek to portray the Florida governor as a culture war leader on matters of gender ideology. Spokesmen for DeSantis and Never Back Down did not respond to questions about whether they were involved in the flyers.

But the problem the DeSantis world has faced when trying to court the evangelical vote is that evangelical voters seems to prefer Trump. The former president has done it has long been popular with this cohortalthough he has shown reluctance to go as far as some of his opponents on issues such as abortion.

On Friday night, Trump warned two influential social conservative organizations that if politicians “don’t talk about [abortion] right, they’re not going to win.” And during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Trump told Kristen Welker that he thought DeSantis signing a six-week abortion ban in Florida was a “terrible thing and a terrible mistake On Saturday, Trump won the straw poll by the religiously conservative Family Research Council with 64 percent of the vote, with DeSantis in second place with 27 percent of the vote.

“Polls show President Trump leading by nearly 40 points in Iowa, but as he always tells us, put the pedal to the metal. We don’t play preemptive defense, and President Trump’s aggressive schedule ahead in Iowa reflects his continued commitment to win support in the state one voter at a time,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement.

Still, some Iowa conservatives believe Trump’s recent comments could cost him some caucus attendees in Iowa, where most Republicans and evangelicals believe abortion should be illegal in most cases. .

Pastor Michael Demastus of the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ said the candidates’ positions on abortion and gender will be top of mind for him when he meets this January. He met with Trump in May, along with a group of 50 other pastors, but left the meeting thinking the former president was “a little arrogant” for telling a local reporter after the event that he had the evangelical vote closed.

Demastus’ synopsis underscores the main variable still at play in Iowa, as the caucus comes into focus: Will Trump’s gravitational pull simply be too much for others? or can he be out of work? Up to this point: will he allow it?

“He needs to show Iowans that he loves them with his presence, not just his words,” said Doug Gross, an Iowa-based Republican consultant who worked for Gov. Terry Branstad. “He has to be here. He just has to be here. Time is the deal.”


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