UNITED STATES NEWS

DeSantis kicks off presidential campaign in Iowa, signals he plans to go harder after Trump

May 29, 2023, 9:21 PM | Updated: May 30, 2023, 6:56 pm

CLIVE, Iowa (AP) — Calling for “a revival of American greatness,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday kicked off a multistate campaign blitz aimed at establishing himself as the Republican Party’s leading next-generation culture warrior while bolstering his place as Donald Trump’s chief rival.

In a fiery speech in Iowa during his first campaign event for the 2024 GOP nomination, he called American decline avoidable and offered himself as its alternative.

“Our country is going in the wrong direction. We can see it and we can feel it,” DeSantis told about 500 people in a evangelical Christian church auditorium in suburban Des Moines plastered with red, white and blue signs proclaiming a “Great American Comeback.” Hundreds more watched from an overflow room.

While DeSantis jabbed at Trump indirectly during his hourlong speech, he pointedly critiqued the former president while talking to reporters and a small audience afterward.

DeSantis lashed out at Trump’s suggestion that New York’s pandemic response was better than Florida’s, calling it “detached from reality.”

“That criticism is ridiculous,” DeSantis said. “But it is an indication that the former president would double down on his lockdowns.”

Stepping back, DeSantis also noted that he never attacked Trump publicly while Trump was the president.

“When we disagreed, I never bashed him publicly because he was taking all this incoming from the media, the left, and even some Republicans. And the whole collusion was a total farce. And he was treated very, very poorly. And that bothered me, and it still bothers me to be honest.

“So, I never really would air those disagreements,” DeSantis added. “Well, now he’s attacking me over some of these disagreements, but I think he’s doing it in a way that the voters are going to side with me.”

Trump, who was already scheduled to be in Iowa on Thursday, added a couple of stops in the state to his schedule for Wednesday, ensuring he would overlap with the Florida governor for a time. He will tape a radio appearance in Des Moines before attending a GOP legislative dinner.

DeSantis’ appearance came six days after a stumbling online announcement that raised questions about his readiness for the national stage. Beyond the glitchy launch, DeSantis opens his campaign looking up at Trump in the polls amid persistent questions about the Florida governor’s ability to connect with voters in person.

The Tuesday evening stop at Eternity Church in Clive was a conspicuous nod to the evangelical Christians who wield outsize sway in Iowa’s Republican presidential caucuses. He met with a handful of influential evangelical pastors before the suburban event, as he has during previous Iowa visits.

But the church event was an opportunity to meet the newly declared candidate just as he has been stepping up his criticism of Trump, who maintains a base of support in Iowa and remains the heavy favorite eight months before the first votes are cast.

Kim Riesberg, who attended DeSantis’ campaign kickoff with her husband, said she voted for Trump in 2016 and in 2020 but is not necessarily committed to him this time around. They wanted to attend because they are interested in DeSantis’ platform, she said

DeSantis is a “little softer,” the 59-year-old of Dallas Center, Iowa, said. And “more appealing to the masses.”

Since Trump and DeSantis are competing for the same job, she understands it might be a bitter race. But “at some point, I would like to see them on the same team.”

DeSantis received some of his most enthusiastic responses from the crowd Tuesday when he leaned into cultural issues, particularly gender identity, which he has targeted with legislation in Florida.

“It is wrong for a teacher to be telling a young student that they may have been born in the wrong body or that their gender is a choice,” DeSantis said.

In Florida, he said, teachers have been banned from having students choose their own pronouns. “We are not competing in the pronoun sweepstakes in the state of Florida,” he said.

Jack Spoonemore, of Adel, Iowa, attended DeSantis’ appearance at his church while eager to see what energy the Florida governor would bring. The 20-year-old supported Trump in 2020, but he said he’s interested in perusing other candidates.

“I’m not a huge fan of the shade,” he added of Trump’s attacks on DeSantis.

United States News

Associated Press

Tornado kills multiple people in Iowa as powerful storms again tear through Midwest

GREENFIELD, Iowa (AP) — Multiple people were killed when a tornado tore through Greenfield and left a wide swath of obliterated homes, crumpled cars and splintered trees, while outside the small town, massive wind turbines were buckled and twisted to the ground by the howling winds. After devastating the town of 2,000 residents, the storms […]

6 hours ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Rangers recover the body of a Japanese climber who died on North America’s tallest peak

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Rangers have recovered the body of a Japanese man who died after an apparent fall while climbing North America’s tallest peak, authorities said Tuesday. Denali National Park and Preserve identified the climber as T. Hagiwara, from Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. He was identified by his first initial in keeping with his family’s […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Detroit could be without Black representation in Congress again with top candidate off the ballot

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Detroit Democrat will not appear on the ballot after building significant support within the party in his attempt to unseat U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar in Michigan’s August primary, after election officials determined that he had not submitted enough valid signatures. Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett’s ruling on Tuesday to keep […]

10 hours ago

DeAnn Kilgore grappled with the unexpected letter from her husband's killer, Michael Moore. Despite...

SuElen Rivera

Letters lead to meeting killer, life-changing moment

DeAnn Kilgore grappled with the unexpected letter from her husband's killer, Michael Moore. Despite initial reluctance, she read it, prompting a profound journey of forgiveness and spiritual healing for herself and her family.

11 hours ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

DeSantis kicks off presidential campaign in Iowa, signals he plans to go harder after Trump