GOP Presidential Candidates Confront Trump’s Popularity In Iowa

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Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis greets guests during a campaign event at Refuge City Church on October 08, 2023 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

OAN’s Brooke Mallory
5:55 PM – Sunday, October 8, 2023

GOP presidential contenders’ aspirations collided in the Hawkeye State on Saturday, 100 days before Republican hopefuls attend their caucuses, making Iowa the center of attention once more.

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Much of the field has aggressively turned their focus to Iowa in an effort to stop former President Donald Trump’s march toward the nomination due to his ongoing, growing popularity in the polls.

In particular, Gov. Ron DeSantis has regarded the state as a must-win.

The sudden onslaught by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, who fired a deadly barrage of rockets and dispatched gunmen into Israeli territory, threw candidates’ prepared speeches into disarray on Saturday.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that his country was “at war” and said that the world had entered a new era of conflict.

“They have a responsibility to defend themselves with overwhelming force,” DeSantis said at a meet and greet at a coffee shop in Ankeny, Iowa.

Trump denounced the attacks as an “act of savagery” and held the Biden administration accountable.

Former Vice President Mike Pence denounced the attack on Saturday and drew comparisons between backing for Israel and support for Ukraine, singling out three of his competitors who had questioned the U.S. government’s continued financial assistance to the nation.

“I call on Donald Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy, and Ron DeSantis to abandon the language of appeasement—to say that we will stand strong with Israel, we will stand strong with Ukraine, we will stand as the leader of the free world,” Pence said.

He also warned that “appeasement will only continue to embolden the forces of Hamas, their terrorist sponsors in Iran and elsewhere around the world.”

Jeff Angelo, a conservative radio show host in Iowa who regularly hosts GOP officials, said, “With Trump having such a gigantic lead going into this home stretch, you’re going to know at the end of this caucus if someone can legitimately challenge him or if it’s all over… I really get the sense that the candidates understand it’s Iowa or nothing. If you’re not close here, there’s no strategy to beat Donald Trump.”

DeSantis made himself available to Iowa reporters for the majority of last week, even though he was campaigning and raising money elsewhere. His campaign also recently relocated one-third of its Tallahassee campaign team to Des Moines.

DeSantis started a three-day bus journey on Saturday in an effort to fulfill a commitment to visit all 99 Iowa counties.

According to information given by AdImpact, a superPAC backing DeSantis, Never Back Down, has spent around $9.8 million supporting the governor on Iowa’s airwaves.

“The only thing that truly matters is Iowa,” said Pete Snyder, a former gubernatorial candidate now raising money for DeSantis. “If you don’t win that, no one is going anywhere.”

Trump campaigned in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids on Saturday after holding an event in Ottumwa the previous weekend.

His strategists told the press that seven appearances in Iowa are scheduled for October as part of a deliberate attempt to sustain momentum leading up to the January 15 caucuses, particularly while his competitors work nonstop to woo voters in the first-in-the-nation nomination state.

Trump also continues to be the leading option for Republicans in terms of the 2024 GOP bid.

“I really haven’t been involved with any of the other candidates,” said 29-year-old Zackary Musgrove who talked to reporters at an Ottumwa rally. “I’m all Trump all the way.”

This weekend, Nikki Haley traveled to Iowa for three stops on her campaign trail, including town hall meetings in Sioux City, Ida Grove, and Boone. 

According to a Republican close to the campaign, Haley also plans to step up her organizational efforts in Iowa. An announcement is scheduled for Monday as she wraps up her weekend visit to the state. When it comes to the first three states on the GOP nomination calendar—Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina—Haley has adopted a three-state approach more than many of her opponents.

“She’s smart, she’s tough and she’s passionate,” said Jane Barth, a Republican voter who came to see Haley at a recent event. “I think she would be fantastic.”

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina also launched a push in Iowa, hoping to win over the state’s evangelical voters with a campaign that emphasizes faith and is strongly pro-life.

A super PAC backing Scott has allocated $14.5 million in airtime for the fall, more than twice as much as the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down. His campaign has already spent $6 million on Iowa commercials.

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