Ron DeSantis had a rough day at the Iowa State Fair


DES MOINES, Iowa – The news taunted Ron DeSantis from Heaven: “Be nice, Ron!”

It swirled over him as DeSantis chatted with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on the patio of a barbecue joint and later toured the Iowa State Fair with his family. It was everywhere.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had a mixed day at the Iowa State Fair on Saturday. Sure, he drove bumper cars, flipped a pork burger on the grill, and handed out hard-boiled egg lollies — all the things candidates should be doing at the fair, a cornerstone of the presidential nomination calendar.

But he was also relentlessly trolled by former President Donald Trump, the dominant force in the GOP primary, whose mere presence at the event eclipsed DeSantis and everyone else hoping for a breakthrough. DeSantis’ day at the fair will likely be remembered for the heckling from across the political spectrum, from liberal protesters ringing cowbells at his first public appearance to Trump supporters following him and chanting, ” We love Trump!”

The scene ultimately reinforced the notion that Trump’s presidential nomination in 2024 is all but inevitable — even as Trump disregarded some of the Mass’s most sacred traditions, skipped every opportunity to answer questions from Iowans and only glimpsed a pork chop , rather than deign to flip it one.

Trump’s biggest move was to show up at the fair virtually unannounced, barge in with a bevy of Secret Service agents, and take over the “Steer N’ Stein” for a smaller campaign rally with members of the Florida House of Representatives supporting him over DeSantis had, another didn’t – so subtle dig at DeSantis.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, opening speech for Trump in the burger bar, bullied that burgers can be made rare or well done, “but the most well done burger is Ron DeSantis.”

DeSantis didn’t return the shot, but some of his supporters did. “I wouldn’t piss off Donald Trump if he was on fire!” said Matt Wells, glancing at the “Be nice Ron!” banner flying overhead. “He could burn, I’d find a toilet five miles away.”

Wells, a local GOP official from Washington County, Iowa, claimed to be one of the first Iowa Republicans to side with the Florida governor instead of Trump.

“He’s mercilessly competent, which I love,” he said. “Besides, he doesn’t let degenerates bother him. The more people protest against him, the more he takes it as a challenge.”

Neither Trump nor DeSantis participated in the Des Moines Register’s “political soapbox,” a tradition that provides candidates with a platform to speak directly to Iowa voters at the fair’s large venue. Trump also declined to sit down with Reynolds for a “fair talk,” previously arguing that Iowa’s GOP governor is becoming too friendly with DeSantis.

“I think it would serve him well to do that. But that’s not my role,” Jeff Kaufmann, leader of the Iowa Republican Party, told HuffPost last week. Kaufmann and many other GOP chairs remain neutral in the race until voters have had a chance to comment.

So far, there have been no clear breakout moments. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy rapped to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” a surprise moment that was recorded and shared online. Former Vice President Mike Pence leaned on January 6th. Neither candidate said anything that would make headlines that would anger Trump.

“I was always loyal to President Donald Trump, until the day came when my oath to the Constitution required me to do something else,” Pence said during his conversation with Reynolds. “But I will always be proud of the record of the Trump-Pence administration.”

“I want to respect the most successful president of this century. I also want to learn where you left off,” Ramaswamy said during his talk at the fair.

“By the way, there are other great people running this primary, I love them all,” he added. “They are my colleagues, not my competitors. We are all colleagues in national revitalization. That’s why I won’t beat up any of the great people.”

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