Florida Governor Ron DeSantis continues to prioritize his presidential campaign, shifting his focus to the crucial state of Iowa. With less than two months until the first-in-the-nation caucuses, DeSantis aims to solidify his support and position himself as the “clear alternative” to former President Donald Trump. However, recent polls suggest that DeSantis may face more challenges than anticipated in his pursuit of the Republican nomination.
Fresh off his impressive performance in the third GOP debate in South Florida, DeSantis returned to the Hawkeye State with a renewed sense of determination. He recognizes that a strong showing in the caucuses is crucial to regaining momentum and convincing the party that Trump is not invincible. To this end, DeSantis has invested significant time and resources in Iowa, completing a comprehensive tour of all 99 counties and targeting specific demographics, such as evangelicals and farmers.
During his visit to Sheffield, Iowa, on Friday, DeSantis seized the opportunity to criticize President Joe Biden’s economic policies and his administration’s support of electric vehicles. DeSantis argued that forcing everyone to abandon liquid fuels in favor of electric vehicles would harm Iowa’s farmers, emphasizing the reliability of traditional fuel sources. These remarks underscore DeSantis’ determination to differentiate himself from the current administration and appeal to the concerns of Iowan voters.
Despite his focus on Biden, DeSantis faces a rising challenger in the form of former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley. According to recent polls, Haley has gained significant traction, particularly in states like New Hampshire. Recognizing her growing influence, Haley has also redirected her campaign efforts towards Iowa. However, DeSantis’ surrogates, including conservative talk show host Steve Deace, dismiss Haley’s surge as unsubstantiated. They continue to assert that the primary race is essentially a two-person contest between Trump and DeSantis.
Deace, who previously worked on Ted Cruz’s successful 2016 Iowa campaign, commends the organization and effectiveness of DeSantis’ operation. He believes that the political climate in Iowa has shifted significantly, with heightened engagement and enthusiasm among voters. Despite such positive sentiments, the DeSantis campaign is leaving nothing to chance and launched a new website on Friday, aimed at discrediting Haley. The website accuses her of holding liberal positions and aligning more closely with the Democratic Party.
DeSantis has celebrated recent victories, including endorsements from Iowa faith leaders and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. However, initial polls indicate that these endorsements did not result in a substantial boost for DeSantis. An Iowa State/Civiqs poll released on Thursday showed minimal changes in Republican support in Iowa, with DeSantis and Haley each gaining just one percentage point. This outcome was surprising to political science professor Dave Peterson, who expected more significant shifts given the recent events in the campaign, such as high-profile candidates dropping out and Reynolds endorsing DeSantis.
Meanwhile, Trump maintains a significant lead both nationally and in individual states. He is expected to secure the endorsement of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, according to CNN. Some of DeSantis’ former supporters, like Florida Representative Randy Fine, now dismiss the battle between Haley and DeSantis, viewing it as a sign that the nomination race is effectively over. Fine believes that Trump is already looking ahead to the general election and formulating strategies to defeat President Joe Biden.
As the race for the Republican nomination intensifies, DeSantis faces mounting challenges in his bid to position himself as the alternative to Trump. Although he has made notable gains in Iowa, recent polls suggest that his support may not be as strong as he had hoped. With Haley emerging as a formidable contender, DeSantis must navigate a complex and competitive landscape as he seeks to secure the party’s nomination and ultimately challenge President Biden in the general election.