Donald Trump made a grand appearance at the Iowa State Fair, attracting a massive crowd of supporters in a spectacle reminiscent of his celebrity status. Despite being without his signature helicopter, Trump managed to captivate the audience during his brief visit to the fairgrounds in Des Moines. He visited several attractions including the Iowa Pork Producers tent, a baby farm animal exhibit, and a popular pub on the Grand Concourse. Throughout his time at the fair, Trump subtly positioned himself as distinct from his main rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who was also present at the event.
As DeSantis and his family concluded their day at the fair, Trump made a dramatic entrance into a throng of supporters, surrounded by a group of Florida U.S. House members. This move was seen as a direct challenge to DeSantis, who has been actively courting Iowa Republicans. While Trump spoke sparingly to the public, he took the opportunity to individually engage with some fairgoers. In one of his speeches at the popular “Steer and Stein” venue, he reiterated his disproven claim of a rigged 2020 election, asserting that he had received millions more votes.
Instead of relying on endorsements from Iowa political figures like most candidates, Trump focused on introducing the Florida lawmakers who accompanied him to Iowa. This strategic move aimed to showcase the support he enjoys from those who know DeSantis well, while also fueling the outrage of his supporters who believe he has been unjustly persecuted with the federal indictments he currently faces. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida warned Iowans that any attacks on Trump were, in fact, attacks on the broader movement.
Despite the two federal indictments against him, Trump’s supporters at the fair showed no signs of concern. The crowd, comprised of supporters spanning different age groups and adorned with Make America Great Again hats, fervently rallied behind the former president. Refusing to answer questions about complying with a protective order in the election conspiracy case, Trump dismissed it as a fabrication orchestrated by President Biden.
In a confrontational exchange with a reporter, Trump scoffed at the suggestion of pleading guilty to lesser charges, asserting that he does not make plea deals. This visit to the Iowa State Fair drew parallels to Trump’s 2015 appearance at the event, where he made headlines by offering helicopter rides to children. This time, he arrived on his Boeing 757, circling the fairgrounds while DeSantis engaged in conversations with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and enjoyed fair attractions with his family.
Throughout the year, Trump has made several attempts to overshadow DeSantis in Iowa, given the governor’s position as his strongest potential challenger. While DeSantis lags behind Trump in national and Iowa polls, his increased outreach in Iowa aims to gain an early advantage against the former president, who remains immensely popular within the Republican base. Trump sought to address rumors of tension between himself and Governor Reynolds, accusing her of favoring DeSantis. Although Reynolds pledged neutrality, she did not join Trump during his visit, although Representative Ashley Hinson greeted him at the pork tent.
Cheers of “Trump, Trump, Trump” filled the air as the former president made three stops, interacted with the enthusiastic crowd, and waved a pork chop on a stick. Despite the extraordinary nature of Trump’s visit, he adhered to fair protocol at the pork tent, holding up a pork chop on a stick to the cheering crowd.