DeSantis says GOP needs ‘positive alternative’ to Biden, Trump cancels Iowa rally due to tornado watch

SIOUX CENTER — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis — expected to announce soon that he’s running for president — is urging Iowa Republicans not to be distracted by the past.

During a speech in Sioux Center Saturday, DeSantis did not mention former President Trump by name, but he told the crowd Republicans must offer a “positive alternative” to President Biden in 2024.

“Strong leadership and a bold agenda can defeat the left in this country, but there’s no substitute for victory,” DeSantis said. “We must reject the culture of losing that has infected our party in recent years. The time for excuses is over.”

DeSantis accused Democrats of trying to make conservatives “second class citizens” and he touted the bills he and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds have signed into law, including a six week abortion ban and removing books from schools that contain graphic passages or images about sex.

“Governing is not about entertaining. Governing is not about building a brand or talking on social media and virtue signaling. It’s ultimately about winning and about producing results and that’s what you’ve done in Iowa and that’s what we’ve done in Florida,” DeSantis said, to applause from a crowd of more than 600.

DeSantis, who won his 2022 campaign for governor of Florida by 20 points, referred to Republican victories in Iowa last year as well. “Republicans can win again and can win big, we just have to make sure we’re leading with purpose and conviction and that we’re delivering results to the people that we represent.”

DeSantis was the keynote speaker at Congressman Randy Feenstra’s annual fundraiser that has featured former Vice President Mike Pence and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley in the past. Feenstra told this year’s crowd the governors of Iowa and Florida have exhibited the kind of leadership that’s needed for the rest of the country. “We need that common sense, conservative leadership now more than ever,” Feenstra said.

Feenstra has not endorsed a presidential candidate, but a political action committee allied with DeSantis announced 37 Republicans serving in the Iowa House and Senate have endorsed DeSantis. The Trump campaign announced this afternoon that it has endorsements from 19 Republican legislators, along with former Congressman Rod Blum of Dubuque and grassroots supporters in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. Trump had planned to speak at a rally later tonight in Des Moines, the outdoor event was cancelled due to a tornado watch issued by the National Weather Service and will be rescheduled “at the first available date.”

DeSantis made a stop at a Des Moines bar on Saturday night, about a mile from where the Trump rally was to be underway.