A look at DeSantis’ and Trump’s campaigns in Iowa

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A look at DeSantis’ and Trump’s campaigns in Iowa

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has visited all of Iowa’s 99 counties, over a weekend that former President Donald Trump returned to the state. Trump maintains a significant lead in the polls in Iowa.

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former President Trump were in Iowa over the weekend. Trump is looking to overcome even the slightest competition that he may have as the race for the Iowa caucuses enters the homestretch. Meanwhile, DeSantis is using traditional campaign tactics to close the double-digit gap with the Republican frontrunner. Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters joined both candidates on the campaign trail and has this report.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: The fire marshal won’t let anyone else into this crowded suburban Des Moines bar, and it’s still hours before Donald Trump speaks.

GARY LEFFLER: Today’s opening deer season. I mean, it’s a miracle I’m even here, right?

MASTERS: Gary Leffler shows up to almost all of Trump’s events in Iowa and warns he shouldn’t take his wide lead in the polls for granted.

LEFFLER: There’s still quite a few Iowans that are in that camp that are like, you know, we’re not going to be totally decided until it’s game time.

MASTERS: Dozens of people who can’t get in stand outside to catch a glimpse of the former president. Inside, people are standing on stacked cases of Busch Light. Some are even on top of the bar itself to see over the crowd as Trump takes to a makeshift stage.

(APPLAUSE)

MASTERS: Trump reminisces about his second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses eight years ago.

DONALD TRUMP: We should have won it with – you know, a lot of sort of foolish things happened. And it’s the only time I had a minor defeat, but I learned a lot.

MASTERS: Trump’s campaign is more organized this time around. At this event, they show a video about how the caucuses work. Volunteers get people to sign commit-to-caucus cards. Sandi Carpenter says she’s going to help Trump out this time.

SANDI CARPENTER: I checked the box to knock on doors. I’m going to get – try to get all my neighborhood to go. And – because, honestly, when we went eight years ago, that’s how we got involved, was somebody knocked, you know, on my door and said, hey; do you want to come to the caucus with us?

MASTERS: Many in the crowd, like Dee McKnight and Deanna Hiatt, say they’re frustrated that Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced last month her endorsement of Ron DeSantis.

DEE MCKNIGHT: Oh (laughter), it was like a stab in the back. I could not believe it.

DEANNA HIATT: It’s not up to her to try to manipulate our vote.

MASTERS: The crowd even boos when Trump brings her up.

TRUMP: I get along with her very well.

MASTERS: Meanwhile, in the small town of Newton, Reynolds tries to energize a markedly different crowd as she introduces the Florida governor.

KIM REYNOLDS: …Because Governor DeSantis was the only candidate that made the commitment to go to all 99 counties. And today we get to celebrate delivering on that promise…

(APPLAUSE)

REYNOLDS: …Right here in Jasper County – No. 99.

MASTERS: That’s every county in Iowa, and it’s a traditional strategy that’s historically paid off in the caucuses. DeSantis has held more than four times the number of events that Trump has in the state.

RON DESANTIS: The fact that I’m willing to do this, that should show you that I consider myself a servant, not a ruler. And that’s how people that get elected should consider themselves.

(APPLAUSE)

MASTERS: Unlike those Trump supporters at the bar in suburban Des Moines, some in this crowd are still weighing their options. Bob LeBlanc says it’s between DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley for him. He thinks there’s an opportunity for another candidate to rise above Trump here.

BOB LEBLANC: I think we have a very winnable fight against the real, hard Trump supporters. That – hey; we like him. We love what he did for us. But he’s not worth the trouble right now. It’s too important.

MASTERS: With a little more than a month until the caucuses, will this year’s contest pack a surprise like it has in the past or will the former president’s grip on his party trump the state’s traditions? For NPR News, I’m Clay Masters in Des Moines.

(SOUNDBITE OF HIPPIE SABOTAGE SONG, “OM”)

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NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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