DeSantis begins his presidential campaign in Iowa by criticizing Trump 2023

Ron DeSantis will launch his presidential campaign in Iowa on Tuesday, starting a hectic week that will take him to 12 cities in three states to test his argument as the strongest Republican alternative to former President Donald Trump.

The Florida governor’s two-day journey to the leadoff caucus state began at a suburban Des Moines megachurch and ended at a Cedar Rapids racetrack following a fumbling online announcement last week that cemented his long-anticipated entry into the expanding Republican field. New Hampshire and South Carolina are next.

DeSantis’ Tuesday evening visit to Eternity Church in Clive honors conservative Christians who dominate Iowa’s Republican presidential caucuses. As he criticizes Trump, his visit will allow people to meet the new candidate.

“He’s got a big hill to climb — and I think everybody would agree with that — to be able to convince people that he can overcome Trump, that he can do a job as good as, if not better than, Trump,” said Linn County Republican Chair Bernie Hayes.

DeSantis asks Trump policies

In interviews with favorable media last week, DeSantis, who had been criticized by Trump for months, directly questioned the previous president’s conservative credentials, including his management of the coronavirus outbreak and criminal justice.

DeSantis labeled a 2018 bipartisan law Trump signed that cut mandatory minimum federal prison sentences and allowed non-violent criminals to decrease prison time “a jailbreak bill.” After becoming governor, DeSantis supported for an early version of the law but departed Congress before the final, less restrictive bill passed.

DeSantis also stated Trump improperly “turned the country over to Fauci,” alluding to Anthony Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who led the COVID-19 pandemic response.

DeSantis declared his campaign Wednesday night during a Twitter chat with Elon Musk. Campaign leaders and others shrugged aside the audio stream’s many crashes, which prevented most people from hearing the news live.

DeSantis continued to argue that conservative legislative successes in Florida this year, mostly on cultural issues like banning sexual orientation debate in schools, are the solution to a nation increasingly ruled by the radical left.

“American decline is not inevitable—it is a choice,” DeSantis remarked over the glitchy audio transmission. “And we should choose a new direction—a path to American revitalization.”

Never Back Down, a super political action committee, is mobilizing support for DeSantis in Iowa and other early voting states with unlimited contributions from wealthy donors. Campaign financing legislation forces the group to function without DeSantis.

Attracting Iowans

The group’s staff and volunteers will work the perimeter of DeSantis’ church event in Clive on Tuesday, as well as events Wednesday in conservative western Iowa’s Sioux City and Council Bluffs and east-central Iowa’s manufacturing and college city of Pella before the finale in Cedar Rapids. DeSantis’ formal bid offers the organization a rallying figure whose events it may attend, even if it cannot coordinate with his campaign.

The risky strategy seeks to maximize super PAC funds. It also helps DeSantis catch Trump in Iowa, whose team believes it has banked thousands of supporters owing to a more disciplined, data-driven outreach operation than Trump’s 2016 campaign. That effort placed him second but left thousands of prospective supporters uncontacted.

Trump has also followed DeSantis in Iowa to show his popularity. Three days after DeSantis appeared and answered questions from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during his biography tour, Trump headlined a Davenport theater event.

Two weeks ago, Trump arranged a rally in Des Moines on the same day DeSantis headlined Iowa Republican events in western and eastern Iowa as the guest of Rep. Randy Feenstra and the state GOP. Due to inclement weather, Trump canceled the outdoor event the day he arrived.

DeSantis surprised Trump by appearing in Des Moines that evening, giving his campaign the appearance of him sparring with the heavyweight.

After DeSantis’ visit, Trump will come to Iowa on Thursday to hold rallies in Des Moines, meet conservative leaders, and interview Fox News Channel anchor Sean Hannity.

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