Both Trump and DeSantis in Iowa v. Attending the Iowa State Tournament game

Charlie Neiburgle/AP

Former President Donald Trump visits the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity at Iowa State University before the Iowa State vs. Iowa football game, Sept. 9, 2023, in Ames, Iowa.


Ames, Iowa
CNN

The long-running football rivalry between the Iowa State Cyclones and the Iowa Hawkeyes began on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.

Off the field, the high-profile Republican race was well underway, with former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis both attending the annual football game. to court Voters in key early nominating states vying for the GOP presidential nomination.

The Republican nominee for Florida governor is the closest to threatening Trump’s lead in the polls. The two differed in their approach to campaigning in Iowa. DeSantis has been keeping up with prominent Iowans like Gov. Kim Reynolds, and Hawkeye has maintained a grueling campaign schedule that includes stops across the state and engaging with voters at town halls. Trump ignored it First primary debate And he doesn’t hold campaign events where voters question him on issues. Instead, the former reality TV star has opted out Big rallies And appearances — like his stop at an Iowa State University fraternity tailgate.

Before the game, Trump stopped by a tailgate held by Alpha Gamma Rho, an agricultural fraternity, where he was met with applause and cheers that drowned out the country music blaring overhead. “Great looking people,” he thanked the crowd.

“It’s some polling. I think young people like Trump,” he told reporters. He stopped grilling and flipped through an interview, saying, “I’m done well.” Trump also tossed campaign-branded footballs into the crowd, one of which he signed.

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DeSantis attended a tailgate hosted by the Iowa State Wrestling Club. As he entered the tent just outside the stadium, supporters rallied behind him and chanted, “We want Ron!” And holding signs issued by Never Back Down, the super PAC supports his presidential bid.

DeSantis made his trip to Iowa as a guest of a political action committee, part of an unusual relationship between his campaign and the PAC. The outside group is responsible for planning DeSantis’ many Iowa visits, one of several tasks traditionally overseen by campaigns handled by Never Back Down.

Asked by reporters how he distinguished his message from Trump’s, DeSantis referred to the former president. Legal issues And while continuing to focus on the 2020 election results, positioning himself as a candidate is more important.

Jeffrey Becker/USA Today

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attend the Iowa State-Iowa game at Jack Trice Stadium on September 9, 2023.

“Iowans don’t want a campaign to be about the past or about candidates’ issues. They want it to be about their future and the future of this country. That’s what I represent,” the Florida governor said.

During the game, Trump sat in a box set as some attendees tried to get his attention. The former president left after half-time, with an excited crowd to see him off. DeSantis sat in the audience with Reynolds and U.S. Rep. Marionette Miller-Meeks of Iowa.

DeSantis, at the tailgate, expressed optimism about his chances of winning the Iowa caucuses in January.

“People are recognizing that what we’ve done here has been very effective. We still have a lot to do, but we’re really doing the work you need to be successful,” he told reporters. support’.”

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Republican presidential candidates Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Governor Doug Bergham and former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson were also in attendance.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the state where Asa Hutchinson was governor. Hutchinson served as governor of Arkansas.

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