Former President Donald Trump seized the spotlight at the Iowa State Fair this weekend, swooping overhead in his private plane just as his chief Republican rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, was flipping pork chops and greeting potential GOP caucus-goers.
The 2024 Republican presidential race played out in close quarters as Trump and DeSantis joined the crowd of thousands.
For DeSantis, the day was filled with the traditions that have made the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines a quintessential stop on the presidential campaign trail since the Democratic Party moved the state to the first position in its nominating calendar in 1972 and Republicans made the same shift four years later. (Democrats this year are shaking up the order of states for their nominating contest.)
Trump flouted those traditions – but drew a massive crowd anyway, underscoring the support the former president retains with the GOP base even as he faces what could be his fourth indictment in the coming days. Trump’s legal troubles have dominated the Republican primary for months, with the former president casting his indictments as politically motivated and frequently utilizing them in fundraising pitches.
Trump had traveled to Iowa with an entourage largely designed to troll DeSantis. It was made up of members of Congress from Florida who have endorsed Trump over their state’s governor: Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Byron Donalds, Matt Gaetz, Carlos Gimenez, Brian Mast, Cory Mills, Anna Paulina Luna, Greg Steube and Mike Waltz.
Flyers that seemed to jab at DeSantis’ record on agriculture were passed around the fairgrounds while the Florida governor grilled pork chops on Saturday. “Iowa pork is delicious & provides nearly 1 in 10 working Iowans a job, but Ron DeSantis would be an utter catastrophe for Iowa,” the flyer said.
It was unclear if paid staffers or volunteers with the Trump campaign were passing out the fliers. At least one person who approached CNN had a MAGA hat on and the flyer said it was paid for by “Donald J. Trump for President 2024, INC.”
Upon arriving at the fair, Trump greeted supporters as he moved through the crowd. The former president made his way to the famous “pork chop on a stick” stand while onlookers chanted “USA.”
Unlike DeSantis, Trump did not grill pork chops himself. He moved to a riser, where he was greeted with cheers from a crowd of supporters alongside the pro-Trump members of Congress from Florida. The former president launched into a mini-stump speech, boasting about his support from Iowa over the years.
“We’re going to take care of Iowa,” he told the crowd. “You have to stay strong; we have bad, bad people from within.”
DeSantis, meanwhile, saw praise and hecklers as he walked through the fairgrounds, which he described as “a sign of strength.”
“They know that we will beat Biden and that we will be able to turn this country around, and they do not want that,” DeSantis told CNN. When asked if he could bring people who don’t like him over to his side, DeSantis added that “average Americans are open to a new direction.”