DeSantis hits 99th county, Trump rallies with crowd in two Iowa cities

NEWTON — There are just six weeks left in the Iowa Caucus campaign season and two of the leading candidates made their case directly to Iowans this past weekend.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis spoke to a crowd in Newton Saturday, marking Jasper County as the 99th one he’s visited. “Are you ready to make history, Iowa?” DeSantis said, to cheers. “We’re got a mission. January 15th we are going to win the Iowa Caucus and that is going to propel us to being the 47th president of the United States and you’re going to make it happen.”

DeSantis, who’s pinning his candidacy on an Iowa victory, said political consultants suggest a candidate’s time would be better spent visiting “more populated areas or other states” rather than stopping in each of Iowa’s 99 counties, but DeSantis said the tour sends a signal. “The fact that I’m willing to do this, that should show you that I consider myself a servant, not a ruler,” DeSantis said, “and that’s how people that get elected should consider themselves.”

Also Saturday, DeSantis announced that if he’s elected president, he would direct officials to reduce the federal workforce in Washington, D.C. by 50%. “As part of our effort to take power out of Washington, D.C., move agencies in other parts of the country, we will answer the call and what people have suggested here in Iowa. You guys will have first dibs on the Department of Agriculture. We will send it to Iowa and you guys take care of it,” DeSantis said, to cheers.

Former President Donald Trump spoke at events in Ankeny and Cedar Rapids Saturday, citing his lead in recent polls. “We got this this thing. We got this thing,” Trump said, to cheers from the crowd in Cedar Rapids.

And Trump zeroed in on DeSantis. “He’s been falling out of the air like a very seriously wounded bird — right? — to the ground and it’s a very pleasant thing to see,” Trump said. “It looks like he’s gonzo.”

Many at Trump’s event in Ankeny were precinct leaders for Trump’s 2024 Iowa Caucus effort and Trump referred to his 2nd place finish in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. “We would have done very well if it was a regular primary, but a Caucus is very different, but we learned a lot,” Trump said. “This time we have the best team anyone’s ever assembled for a Caucus.”

The crowd in Ankeny booed as Trump mentioned Governor Kim Reynolds, who has endorsed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. “That was her choice to do this, but I believe in loyalty,” Trump said. “…I don’t care if she endorses me or not. It’s not going to make any difference because the only endorsement that matters is the Trump endorsement.”

Trump, who described his agenda as “common sense” rather than “conservative,” repeated some of his promises, like repealing and replacing ObamaCare and enhancing border security. “We’re going to seal up those borders so tight and we’re going to have the largest deportation of very bad people,” Trump said, to cheers, “very bad people who shouldn’t be in this country.”

At previous speeches in Iowa, Trump has said he’ll impose ideological screening of immigrants and reissue his 2017 executive order that banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U-S.

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who also campaigned in Iowa on Saturday, said he’s on track to visit each of Iowa’s 99 counties twice before the Caucuses on January 15. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley plans to return to the Iowa campaign trail next weekend. Iowa Congressman Randy Feenstra will host an event in Sioux Center Saturday with Haley, Ramaswamy, DeSantis, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and Texas pastor Ryan Binkley.