The helicopter is gone, but Donald Trump on Saturday renewed his reputation for defying norms and creating a mega-celebrity spectacle at the Iowa State Fair.
Trump, in less than two hours at the steamy fairgrounds in Des Moines, drew thousands of sweaty, chanting supporters during his stops at the Iowa Pork Producers tent, a baby farm animal exhibit and a famous Grand Concourse pub.
All the while, Trump has made little attempt to distance himself from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s main rival who has more than five months to hold Iowa’s leadoff caucus and who was at the fairgrounds at the same time.
As DeSantis and his family wrapped up their day at the fair, meeting with Iowa Republican leaders and activists, Trump dropped by a large group of supporters accompanied by about a dozen members of the Florida US House, a shot at DeSantis making an aggressive pitch to Iowa Republicans.
Trump didn’t speak much publicly during his short time at the fair, except to speak one-on-one with a few fairgoers. However, he repeated in remarks to the hundreds packed into the fair favorite “Steer and Stein” the unsubstantiated claim that the 2020 election was “rigged,” and that “we got millions and millions- million more votes.”
Instead, while most of the caucus-seeking candidates backed political endorsements in Iowa, Trump spent most of his public remarks introducing the Florida lawmakers who traveled with him to Iowa. The effort, Trump aides said, reflects the sentiments of those who know DeSantis best, but is also clearly fueling anger among those who feel the former president is being persecuted for the two federal indictments he now faces.
“So to all my friends in Iowa when you see them come for this year, know that they’re coming for this movement, and they’re coming for all of us,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
There was no hint of concern in the air — given the concentration of supporters, the age range and the sea of Make America Great Again hats — about Trump’s indictment this month of the federal felony changes he worked so hard to overturn the election. in 2020. -until his supporters violently rioted at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Pausing briefly to speak to reporters, he declined to say whether he would comply with a protective order by the judge overseeing the election conspiracy case, which limits what the former president can say publicly about evidence in the investigation while he is campaigning.
“I have to look at the order,” Trump said. “The whole thing is a fake – it was put out by Biden, because they couldn’t win an election the fair way.”
Asked later if he would be willing to plead guilty to lesser charges, Trump called the reporter “a smart guy.” “We don’t do plea deals,” he said.
In 2015, as the emerging Republican presidential nominee, Trump commanded attention at the fair by offering children a ride in his personal helicopter. In a suit and tie, the former-TV celebrity and New York real estate executive cuts a stark contrast to the usual jeans-and-cowboy-boots candidates.
In such no-nonsense style Saturday, Trump’s Boeing 757 circled the fairgrounds before his landing as DeSantis engaged in a series of one-on-one conversations with Gov. Kim Reynolds hosts most of the GOP candidates and goes to her husband Casey and youth. kids ride the Ferris wheel and bumper cars.
It was one of several episodes this year in Iowa where Trump sought to outdo DeSantis while they were both in the state. DeSantis trails Trump in national and Iowa polls but still views him early in the race as his strongest potential challenger and recently stepped up his reach in Iowa in an attempt to land an early blow against the former president which remains very popular with the GOP base.
Trump has sought to ease tensions between him and Reynolds, whom Trump has criticized for appearing more often with DeSantis, who has campaigned more often in Iowa. Reynolds, who has pledged neutrality, did not appear with Trump on Saturday, though Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson is Trump in the pig tent.
But in addressing the drama with Reynolds, Trump reiterated his claim that he was responsible for his election. Reynolds won a tight race in 2018 after Trump campaigned for her, though she won re-election by a larger margin in 2022.
“I have a very nice relationship with her,” he said. “I chose him.”
Cheers of “Trump, Trump, Trump,” erupted during the three stops the former president – in a blue suit, but this time in an open-collared shirt – trudging shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, waving a porkchop on a stick, own ceremony.
Although most of Trump’s stops were unusual, at the pork tent, he bowed to state fair protocol.
He held a porkchop on a stick in front of the crowd and waved it.