URBANDALE, Iowa (NewsNation) — Former President Donald Trump was back in Iowa on Thursday, arriving in the Hawkeye State just hours after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wrapped his first major campaign swing there and looking to win over Republican voters.
Trump met with a smaller group of voters over breakfast on Thursday morning, which is a change from the bigger rallies where he has traditionally engaged with the public.
But that’s the former president’s approach this year in Iowa: to meet with the state’s voters where they are and try to win their support.
The former president spoke during a meeting at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale — a smaller city about 15 minutes from Des Moines.
The club holds about 100 people and is a key stop for Republican office seekers. There, Trump met with dozens of faith leaders for a luncheon.
“There’s no way I can lose Iowa,” he told the crowd.
On Wednesday evening, Trump weighed in on the race in a radio interview.
“This is a war of a certain kind, and what you do is, generally speaking, the person that’s in second place, you go after that person as opposed to the person in eighth or ninth place,” Trump said in his interview. “(DeSantis) was a very disloyal person. He had no chance of winning the election, he was down by many, many, many points, it was over, and he asked me to endorse him. I endorsed him and all of a sudden he’s running against me.”
However, Trump fought back on his social media site, Truth Social, claiming DeSantis was against everything Trump fought for. Trump also claimed that, as president, he had done more for the state than any other president.
“Looking forward to my stay in Iowa, a Great State that I did more for than any other President including: USMCA, 28 Billion Dollars from China to our farmers, and saving Ethanol, which was dead until I got involved,” Trump posted.
Trump has hit DeSantis in the past for co-sponsoring a bill from his time in Congress that would have ended the renewable fuel standard. That means blending ethanol — much of that derived from Iowa corn — into the nation’s fuel supply.
DeSantis was asked about Trump’s attacks on him for his previous stance.
“I know they’re going to do a farm bill, we’ll see how that goes,” DeSantis responded. “And, I’ll obviously take positions. When I was in Congress, I was there for two farm bills. I voted against one, I voted for the other. And I think there were different reasons why we did that,” DeSantis said. “We’ll be rolling out an energy policy. You know we are going to have biofuels be a part of that because I think we just need to have American-produced energy. And what I don’t want to see is Biden try to force everyone into electric vehicles, because guess what? You have to get the materials from China.”
Ethanol is a key part of Iowa’s economy, and as Trump said in his post, ethanol was “dead until he got involved.”
Now, Trump will likely face questions on this as he meets with Iowa voters on Thursday and during his town hall later at night.
But some voters told NewsNation that they just want to see the fighting stop and the candidates focus on the issues.
“I think with Trump’s recent attacks on DeSantis, really out of hand with that. Definitely not foreseen,” Nick Romano from Ankeny, Iowa, said. “I think DeSantis will do a very good job bringing common sense to the people and speaking in a more politically savvy sense than Trump has recently.”
John, a voter from Clive, Iowa, who wished to use only his first name, also said he’s still torn on whom to support.
“I have supported Trump in the past, I don’t know where I’m going to land. I like both of them. I like that other countries don’t stand up against Trump,” he said.
But John also said he likes what DeSantis has accomplished in Florida and said he values how the Florida governor doesn’t conform to what everybody else is doing, especially how he handled the pandemic and COVID-19.
A lot of voters in Iowa, like John, have attended DeSantis’ events and are also planning to see Trump on Thursday, still undecided and feeling out a field that continues to grow daily.
Devan Markham contributed to this report.