Former President Donald J. Trump has made it clear that he will not give any attention to his rivals for the 2024 presidential election. Over the weekend, while Governor Ron DeSantis was present at the Iowa State Fair, a crucial event for presidential hopefuls, Trump’s private plane loudly flew near the fairgrounds. In addition, a plane earlier in the day carried a banner reading “Be likable, Ron!” with an exclamation point designed to resemble the logo of Jeb Bush, a previous Florida governor whom Trump defeated in 2016. Although the Trump campaign did not claim responsibility for the plane, it heavily promoted the stunt.
In the weeks leading up to the state fair, Trump has had a strained relationship with Iowa leaders, including Governor Kim Reynolds, who is popular in the state. However, Trump is well-suited to the traditional politicking and political theatrics for which the fair is known. On Saturday, he received a much warmer reception than his leading rival, DeSantis, who has struggled to connect with voters in unscripted moments. Trump took advantage of this vulnerability during the fair.
As another dig at DeSantis, the former president brought along prominent Florida Republicans who have endorsed him over their own governor. Representative Matt Gaetz, who previously aligned with DeSantis but now supports Trump in 2024, even wore a shirt that said “Florida man.” When Trump walked into the pork grilling area, he was handed a pork chop on a stick, which he briefly held aloft before offering it to a right-wing television personality nearby, who proceeded to eat it.
Later, Trump spoke inside a beer building known as Steer N’ Stein, which advertises its extra cold 27-degree brews. On that day, the establishment had a “MAGA Meal Day” special, offering a double cheeseburger, “freedom fries,” and a coke for $24 for 2024.
Before taking the stage, Trump’s team distributed leaflets attacking DeSantis’s stance on agricultural issues, labeling him an “utter catastrophe” for farmers. These leaflets served as a reminder of the asymmetry in the ongoing primary race. Day after day, Trump and his team criticize DeSantis, who has mostly tried to avoid engaging with the former president, fearing backlash from Trump’s dedicated supporters, whom DeSantis hopes to win over.
During the event, DeSantis received boos from Trump supporters as he walked by the beer hall with his daughter on his shoulders, just before Trump’s arrival.
In conclusion, Trump continues to dominate the political arena by constantly seeking attention and staying in the spotlight, even during events where his rivals are present. His ability to engage with voters and engage in political theater gives him an advantage over other candidates like DeSantis, who struggle to connect in unscripted situations. The ongoing tension between Trump and DeSantis is evident, as Trump’s camp takes every opportunity to criticize DeSantis, while hoping to win over Trump’s loyal base.