Trump returns to Iowa for another rally and needles the state’s governor for endorsing DeSantis

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FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — Former President Donald Trump will campaign Saturday in west-central Iowa as part of his fall push to sign up supporters and volunteers ahead of the state’s leadoff caucuses, now less than two months away.

Trump is expected to headline an organizing rally in Fort Dodge, a GOP-leaning hub, the latest in a series of targeted regional stops aimed at seizing on the large crowds the former president draws to press attendees to commit to voting for him on Jan. 15.

The midday event set for Fort Dodge High School would be Trump’s sixth Iowa visit since late September. While Trump has led Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley comfortably in polls of likely caucus participants, Trump’s campaign has been more aggressive in Iowa than any of the other early-voting states in the Republican presidential nominating calendar.

Speaking on a radio show Thursday to promote his appearance, Trump ripped DeSantis as “doing very poorly” even after winning the endorsement of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who broke with the general practice of Iowa governors not to support a candidate before the caucuses.

“I was really good to her and then she said she was going to remain neutral. And I said, ‘That’s OK,’ but I didn’t really want her particularly,” he told host Simon Conway.

“Ron is doing very poorly in the polls and I guess he put a full-court press on her,” Trump said. “And she did that. And that’s fine. I think it’s fine. I don’t think it’s made any difference.”

Trump has made regular stops in Iowa, appearing at eight events before audiences totaling more than 16,000, according to Trump’s Secret Service detail, in the past eight weeks.

It’s part of Trump’s 2024 strategy to stress organization more than in 2016, when he finished a competitive second place, but did so without building the network of staff and volunteers to deliver what was unexpected support for the real estate mogul and reality television personality.

His lesser-known rivals, especially DeSantis, have been in Iowa more often as they hope to score a better-than-expected finish against the former president, who also leads comfortably in national Republican polls.

As Trump campaigns in Fort Dodge Saturday, DeSantis will be campaigning across southern Iowa, inching closer to reaching his goal of campaigning in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. That’s a traditional marker some candidates have tried to achieve to show their commitment to Iowa.

A recent memo to donors from DeSantis’ campaign suggested that DeSantis’ all-in strategy in Iowa, including last week’s endorsement of the Florida governor by Reynolds was in keeping with his hope to rob Trump of “a big win in Iowa.”

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