Former President Donald J. Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida are set to make an appearance at the Iowa State Fair on Saturday, marking a significant moment in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. This event is particularly significant as it takes place during the busiest day of state-level political activities, amidst a backdrop of farm animals, corn dogs, and oversized lemonades.
The Iowa State Fair represents a nostalgic return to a bygone era of politics, where in-person interactions held more sway than appearances on cable news. The fair offers a mix of traditional speeches and unique activities such as politicians flipping pork chops. It comes as no surprise that it has attracted most of the 2024 field of presidential hopefuls.
Mr. Trump, well-known for his previous helicopter rides and interactions with children during his primary campaign in 2015, will be flying to Iowa for a single day of campaigning. In a strategic move to undermine his leading rival, he will be accompanied by prominent Republicans from Florida who have endorsed him over Governor DeSantis.
Meanwhile, Governor DeSantis, who recently replaced his campaign manager, has been focused on revitalizing his political prospects in Iowa. He has spent two full days campaigning in the state ahead of the fair and has made it a point to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties, a pledge he has committed to fulfilling.
Interestingly, during a podcast recording in downtown Des Moines, Governor DeSantis confidently announced that he aims to complete his visits to all 99 counties by October, indicating a highly ambitious schedule for the next two months of events in the state.
On Friday, several lower-polling candidates also made appearances at the fairgrounds, including former Vice President Mike Pence, Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota, Perry Johnson, Larry Elder, and Mayor Francis X. Suarez of Miami. These candidates sought to gain attention and support from potential Iowa caucusgoers.
Mayor Suarez, who is likely to miss the first debate later this month, expressed his excitement at being at the fair and compared the atmosphere to that of being at Disneyworld. During a conversation with Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa, who invited all candidates for a friendly Q&A session dubbed “fair-side chats,” Mayor Suarez praised the event’s lively atmosphere.
Most candidates accepted Governor Reynolds’ invitation, except for Mr. Trump, who has been critical of her plans to remain neutral in the primary race and has attempted to take credit for her election.
Governor DeSantis has seized upon Mr. Trump’s comments about Governor Reynolds, with his allies and advisors suggesting that Mr. Trump’s remarks have created an opportunity to discredit the popular Republican governor.
On Friday, Governor DeSantis received the formal endorsement of prominent conservative radio host Steve Deace in Iowa. Mr. Deace, who has been vocal about his hope that the party will not nominate Mr. Trump again, publicly expressed support for Governor DeSantis.
While it is unlikely that Mr. Trump and Governor DeSantis will cross paths at the Iowa State Fair, it remains uncertain when they will next be in the same location. Mr. Trump has been indecisive about attending the first primary debate, which is less than two weeks away. He has suggested that his polling lead makes it unnecessary while also stating that he will not sign the loyalty pledge required by the party.
Governor DeSantis, on the other hand, has emphasized the importance of earning the nomination, stating that candidates must show up, debate, answer questions, defend their records, and articulate a vision for the future. He underscored these points during an appearance on the “Ruthless” podcast, highlighting the need for active engagement in the political process.