CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—On the Iowa campaign trail, former President Trump said that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination may be “gonezo.”
“We never want to say that. We’ve got to get this thing finished,” he told an enthusiastic crowd at Kirkwood Community College on Dec. 2. In between the cheers, he stressed to his local supporters that they must caucus for him on Jan. 15, now less than a month and a half away.
The former president swung through Cedar Rapids after speaking earlier in the day in Ankeny, Iowa, outside Des Moines.
His Iowa jaunt came after a decidedly uneven week for Mr. DeSantis.
Yet, alongside long-range declines in polling with a significant gap to front-running President Trump, competition for funding with former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, and recent shakeups at the super PAC backing his run for the presidency “Never Back Down,” Mr. DeSantis has been left looking vulnerable ahead of the fourth Republican debate next week in Alabama.
“Never Back Down’s main goal and sole focus has been to elect Governor Ron DeSantis as president. Given the current environment, it has become untenable for me to deliver on the shared goal, and that goes well beyond a difference of strategic opinion,” Mr. Jankowski said in a statement Never Back Down’s spokeswoman provided.
Trump Criticizes DeSantis, Iowa Gov. ReynoldsWhile Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Ramaswamy seek to regain momentum, President Trump is contending with an unfavorable ruling from Judge Tanya Chutkan in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case alleging that he interfered in the 2020 presidential election.
The former president did not mention Judge Chutkan in Cedar Rapids. In that case and a civil fraud case, he’s currently muzzled by gag orders.
He renewed more of his frequent criticisms of Mr. DeSantis, alleging that he was a “raging opponent of ethanol.”
In his Ankeny speech, President Trump criticized Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, for endorsing Mr. DeSantis.
“How do you endorse somebody who’s forty or fifty points down?” President Trump asked before reiterating a major theme in his speeches: loyalty to him, or the lack thereof.
The Audience RespondsAhead of President Trump’s speech, Dion Knapp didn’t look discouraged about his candidate of choice. Mr. Knapp was working the crowd while wearing a Trump flag as a cape.
“Iowa’s going for Trump. There’s no two ways about it,” he told The Epoch Times.
He said the former president could triple his share of the vote he received in 2016. In that year’s caucus, the future commander-in-chief finished behind Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and got a little under one quarter of the total vote.
Mr. Knapp praised the speech afterward.
“He’s hitting all of his bases,” he said.
Peter Stout, a student at Kirkwood who said he grew up on a farm, told The Epoch Times that the Trump-era trade war with China over crops was “definitely a tough time.”
He said that the former president’s talk of ethanol resonates with farmers.
“People know ethanol drives the world,” Mr. Stout said.
Will he caucus for President Trump?
A man with the last name Stern who declined to provide his first name told The Epoch Times he intends to support President Trump at the Jan. 15 Iowa caucus.
“It was awesome. It was Trump,” he said of the speech.