Antelope Valley Press

Iowa Republican­s curb DeSantis’ hopes, show party belongs to Trump


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ candidacy rolled into Iowa last spring as if it had been designed by a committee of drooling Republican officials in a GOP-leaning state.

A Navy veteran, DeSantis had been whisked into a second term and had a fresh set of conservati­ve measures tucked under his arm and an ambitious $100-million political machine built with Iowa in mind. At first blush, it seemed to many to be the key to picking former President Donald Trump’s lock on the Hawkeye State’s Republican base.

The former Yale baseball player would touch them all in Iowa in the months to come, collecting the GOP-beloved governor’s endorsemen­t and mimicking senior Sen. Chuck Grassley’s annual 99-county pilgrimage, all with his charming young family in tow.

Yet, even after his team in Iowa knocked on more than 940,000 doors and DeSantis himself headlined nearly 140 events, many Iowans simply never warmed to the sometimes dour and lecturing cultural warrior. “He’s not that charismati­c, but I figured I should see him,” said Steve Kessler, a Nikki Haley supporter, at DeSantis’ last campaign stop Monday in Cedar Rapids.

From the sweltering August heat of Iowa State Fair campaign stops to the sub-zero trudge Iowans made to their neighborho­od caucuses Monday, DeSantis was never able to dip deep enough into that well of GOP voters who like Trump but were open to an alternativ­e. The alternativ­e vote split roughly in two, leaving Republican Iowa firmly in Trump’s hands as the first ballots of the 2024 presidenti­al contest were cast.

“No one can compete with, not only the record of a better economy during his term, but an America-first message that’s much stronger than anyone else’s,” said Randy Vandeberg, of GOPheavy Rock Rapids, who said he would have considered supporting DeSantis were Trump not a candidate.

Even in this small sampling of voters — roughly 110,000 of Iowa’s 2.2 million people, practicall­y a focus group on the national scale — Trump proved himself to be a daunting hurdle for his party’s rivals in a state he’d already carried twice.

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