DeSantis says GOP loses if 2024 is about past controversies

GARNER — Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis is subtly urging Iowa Caucusgoers to focus on the 2024 election rather than on former President Donald Trump’s indictments.

Without saying Trump’s name, DeSantis made the pitch to a crowd in Garner this weekend. “If the election ends up a referendum on all these controversies from the past and all these issues that while they are important in their own way are not really impacting the average American, what they are going through…then Biden’s just going to hide out in the basement, he’s not going to face any scrutiny and I think he’s going to get away with it again and the Democrats are going to win,” DeSantis said.

The Florida governor’s first stop Saturday was in Kossuth County, where Trump finished 6.4% behind 2016 Iowa Caucus winner Ted Cruz. DeSantis’ Saturday afternoon town hall was in Hancock County, which Cruz won with 45% support in 2016. Trump won both of those counties in the 2016 and 2020 General Elections.

DeSantis told reporters last Wednesday’s debate has kicked off a new phase of the campaign. “You’re going to see a little bit different cadence going forward, but Iowans appreciate when show up and they expect you to show up,” said DeSantis, who is about halfway through his plan to visit each of Iowa’s 99 counties. “They expect you to earn it, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy also campaigned in Iowa this weekend and told reporters his goal is to finish in the top three in the 2024 Iowa Caucuses. “I do show up here more than any other candidate, so we’re going to use time on the ground as one advantage,” Ramaswamy said. “And then the fact that we now have the debate season beginning, more people will automatically hear from me and what I stand for.”

Ramaswamy held events in half a dozen Iowa towns Friday and Saturday, drawing people who had never heard of him before Wednesday’s debate, “so the next five months is now about actually introducing myself to the voter base,” Ramaswamy said, “and that’s something that just begins the main phase of the campaign.”

Ramaswamy was in seventh place in this month’s Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll.