Former President Donald Trump drew contrasts between himself and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday in Davenport, Trump’s first visit to Iowa since announcing a run for president.
Speaking to a full Adler Theatre, Trump called his potential rival “very, very bad on ethanol,” compared him to 2012 GOP candidate Mitt Romney, and accused DeSantis of supporting raising the minimum age for Social Security benefits.
During his 2012 campaign for Congress, DeSantis expressed support for restructuring Social Security and Medicare, which aid millions of seniors in the United States, to make them more financially sustainable.
While in Congress, DeSantis voted on nonbinding budget resolutions that called for raising the retirement age and slowing the growth of future spending.
Since then, he's said the GOP wouldn't "mess with" Social Security.
People are also reading…
Trump touted support for ethanol, and an executive order he made while in office to allow for year-round sales of 15% ethanol gasoline blend.
He told the crowd that Americans are “still seeing the benefits” of his trade and agriculture policies, “but it’s slowly slipping away” under the Biden administration.
Trump also said he wouldn't make any cuts to Social Security or Medicare.
DeSantis hasn’t yet announced a run for president, but he made stops in Davenport and Des Moines March 10 as he flirts with a presidential bid. Trump is ahead in national polling averages, but DeSantis as a likely candidate is the only potential rival, polling in the double digits.
“I don’t think you’re going to be doing so well here,” Trump said, referring to DeSantis. “But we’re going to find out.”
Trump’s remarks come as the race for the Republican nomination is beginning to heat up in Iowa, the first state on the GOP presidential calendar.
Monday's was his first visit to the first-in-the-nation state for Republicans since the 76-year-old announced in November that he would again run for the GOP nomination.
In a speech that was billed as one focusing on education, Trump instead spoke more broadly on his record as president on the economy and immigration and reasserted the false claim that he won the 2020 election.
Some of the most crowd-energizing policy topics, however, were his vows to take action on immigration and education, including pulling funding from schools that teach “Critical Race Theory.”
“I will immediately sign a new executive order to cut federal funding for any school that’s pushing critical race theory and any other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content for our children,” Trump said.
Trump said he'd support the direct election of school principles by parents.
“I’m saying parents have rights,” Trump said.
Trump congratulated Iowa on passing a bill to support families with costs of private education by permitting public dollars to follow Iowa students into private and/or religious schools.
“As president, I’ll fight to expand that right to every single state in America,” Trump said.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds introduces Trump
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has indicated she will remain neutral during the caucus process, introduced Trump at the rally on Monday. She said Trump led the country “unapologetically America first.”
“I can tell you without hesitation, he loves Iowa,” she said.
On Monday, just after disembarking from his plane — with TRUMP emblazoned on the side — he was asked whether he has Reynold's support, and he replied, “I imagine I do. I supported her.”
The governor also introduced DeSantis during his visit on Friday. The two drew parallels between Iowa's and Florida's approach to education and the pandemic. Reynolds also has introduced former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott at events.
In comments to reporters at the airport, Trump was dismissive of DeSantis. He said he would draw a bigger crowd than DeSantis.
At the Adler Theatre, Trump called for a litany of policies if he were elected.
Among the lines with the loudest applause:
- If inaugurated in January 2025, Trump said: “I will cancel every Biden policy.”
- Trump said he would “stop the invasion at the border.”
- Sign an executive order to cut federal funding for any school that’s “pushing critical race theory”
- “Keep men out of women’s sports.”
- Cut federal funding to “schools with vaccine mandates.”
- Break up the Department of Education
Karen Padilla, a grandmother from California who was visiting her grandchildren in Davenport, said she would “definitely” vote for Trump in 2024, and in particular likes his positions on the southern border and education.
“He kept our border secure,” Padilla said. “I’m Hispanic myself and my family had to come legally here, and I have family still waiting. And you know, the fentanyl, the schools, the CRT, it’s ridiculous.”
What did Trump do while he was in Davenport?
When Trump arrived at the Quad Cities International Airport, he shook hands with supporters wearing MAGA hats and turned to the press for questions with the plane’s engine still roaring.
Asked about Iowa, Trump said he “won it twice and I think we’re going to win it again.”
Trump won Iowa in 2016 and 2020 general elections. In 2016, Ted Cruz won the most support in the Iowa Republican caucuses.
Traveling in a motorcade, Trump took a detour on his way downtown, stopping at the Iowa Machine Shed restaurant at Northwest Boulevard near Interstate 80.
He shook hands and took selfies with restaurant-goers, a group of whom were coordinated with “Trump won” T-shirts. Several people there gasped and one said “it’s him!”
When has Trump been in Davenport?
The Adler Theatre is a familiar venue for Trump. He campaigned there in January 2016 ahead of the caucuses that year and again in July 2016 after he captured the nomination.
The last time Trump stopped in Iowa, he rallied supporters in Sioux City, campaigning for Iowa Republicans, including Reynolds and Sen. Chuck Grassley days before the 2022 midterm elections.
Ahead of the event Monday, the Trump campaign announced a slate of endorsements from Eastern Iowa lawmakers ahead of the event, including state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, a senior advisor to the campaign, and Republican former Iowa congressman Rod Blum of Dubuque and former acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who was appointed by Trump. All sat on the stage alongside Trump during his speech, as well as state Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Des Moines.
What do Democrats have to say about Trump’s visit?
Democratic National Committee spokesperson Rhyan Lake wrote in a statement to media:
“Donald Trump’s record on education speaks for itself. As president, Trump put Betsy DeVos in charge and worked alongside her to try and gut public education funding every single year he was in office — all while pushing to move billions in taxpayer money to support private schools. Everyone will see right through Donald Trump’s desperate spin about his own record as the GOP field races to out-MAGA each other at the expense of America’s kids.”
Who else is running for the GOP nomination?
So far, Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy have announced bids for the 2024 nomination, making their intentions public in February. But visits to the Hawkeye State by DeSantis and others signal they're seriously considering a run to face President Joe Biden in 2024.
A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll released March 10 showed many Iowa Republicans said they still support the former president, but fewer said they would "definitely" vote for him. Forty-seven percent of Iowa Republicans said they would "definitely" support Trump in 2024, down from 69% in June 2021.
Trump faces several investigations and legal battles. Among them is a Congressional inquiry into his role on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. in an attempt to prevent Congress from formalizing the electoral votes to make Joe Biden the 46th U.S. President.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has also been making stops in Iowa as he contemplates a presidential bid, said Sunday in Washington, D.C., "history will hold Donald Trump accountable" for that day.
In Manhattan, Trump appears to be close to potentially facing criminal charges for his role in hush money paid to porn star Stephanie Clifford, who goes by Stormy Daniels. At the airport in Moline, Trump said the case is being pushed by "radical leftists."