The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Trump, DeSantis compete for Iowa Republican support at Iowa State Fair

The two front-runners drew massive crowds during their short stops at the Iowa State Fair on Saturday.
Cody Blissett
Three sisters pose for a photo while waiting for former president Donald Trump to speak during the 2023 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, August 12, 2023.

In the sweltering heat, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis sweat out the details of their plans for the nation’s highest office at the Iowa State Fair Saturday. 

Ahead of the first GOP presidential primary debate on Aug. 23, the party’s front runners visited the fair to compete for the attention and support of Iowa Republicans. 

Trump and DeSantis’ brief visits to the fairgrounds drew hundreds of supporters. The former president proved his popularity in Iowa — despite his qualms with the neutrality of Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds — pulling a crowd almost double the size of DeSantis during his appearance at the Steer N’ Stein bar on the fairgrounds.

RealClearPolitics average of national polls shows that Trump leads DeSantis by almost 40 points. 

Not only does the former president still wrangle the nation’s GOP, but 44 percent of Iowa Republicans chose Trump in a recent New York Times and Sienna College poll. He led DeSantis by 24 points among Iowa Republicans in the same poll.

Other presidential candidates, such as former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Ohio biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and Texas Pastor Ryan Binkley, attended the Iowa State Fair Saturday. 

RELATED: Longshot candidates take the stage on day two of Iowa State Fair.

Trump makes brief visit to the fair, draws massive crowd

Trump’s quick but jam-packed visit to the fair drew massive crowds on Saturday, with a flock of Trump supporters following the president as he visited the cattle and horse barn, and the animal learning center. 

The former president and the current frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination brought members of the U.S. House Freedom Caucus members from Florida — his competitor’s home state — during his parade around the fair. 

Trump said he had drawn the largest crowd that the state fair had seen, claiming he had set a record for attendance. Iowa State Fair attendance numbers for Saturday, Aug. 12, have not been released as of Sunday morning.

“It’s a real honor to be here,” Trump told reporters on Saturday. “I reckon this is the largest crowd they’ve ever had. I am very honored.” 

Donald Trump supporters walk during the 2023 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, August 12, 2023. (Cody Blissett)

DeSantis “Fair-Side Chat” interrupted by hecklers

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis drew hundreds of Iowans to the fair on Saturday but grew an even more sizable resistance during his “Fair-Side Chat” with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. 

A group of six protestors clamored cowbells, blew whistles, and occasionally shouted during his chat with Reynolds. 

Reynolds stopped the interview with DeSantis to scold the protestors. 

“We’re in Iowa and in Iowa, we’re Iowa nice,” Reynolds said to the group on Saturday. “So let’s give everybody the opportunity to hear our candidates. So we’ll stop until you do, but we’re all going to have an opportunity to hear from each and every candidate.” 

The group continued to disrupt the event until an altercation between the protestors and DeSantis supporters resulted in the Iowa State Police removing five of the six protestors. 

No charges were filed according to a report by The Cedar Rapids Gazette.

RELATED: Photos: 2023 Iowa State Fair

During his chat with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, DeSantis spoke on his plan to dismantle the federal bureaucracy in the FBI and the Department of Justice. 

DeSantis said the real Washington “swamp” was in the bureaucrats that run the federal government. There are over $2.5 million federal employees employed by the federal government, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

He said he wants to reduce the number of federal employees by half and cut out the alleged corruption in the government. He said, during an appearance in Coralville on Thursday, that he will also fire the current FBI director and clean-house in the Department of Justice of staff for abusing their powers. 

“So buckle up, we’re gonna do a lot, and I think the swamp is not going to like it but you know what, I’ve had enough of the swamp imposing its will on us,” DeSantis said. “Now it’s the time we the people impose our will on [the swamp.]”

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About the Contributors
Liam Halawith
Liam Halawith, Politics Editor
Liam Halawith is a third-year student at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Public Policy. Before his role as Politics Editor Liam was a politics reporter for the DI. Outside of the DI Liam has interned at the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Southeast Iowa Union. This is his second year working for the DI.
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.