Under Pressure: DeSantis’ Quest to Defeat Trump in Iowa Raises Doubts

**Stacey Fox and the Fairway Queens’ Support for Ron DeSantis at the Iowa State Fair**
Stacey Fox and her group of golfing friends, who call themselves the Fairway Queens, attended the Iowa State Fair this year. Despite her preference for Ron DeSantis in the race for the White House, Fox is uncertain about his chances of defeating former president Donald Trump. She admires DeSantis for his strength, backbone, electability, and understanding of small-business owners.

**Iowa State Fair: A Crucial Testing Ground**
Every four years, presidential hopefuls visit the Iowa State Fair to win over some of America’s most courted and demanding voters. This event becomes a political rite of passage, with farmers showcasing prized livestock and food trucks selling popular fair food.

**DeSantis’s Struggle to Gain Ground**
Since launching his bid for the presidency in late May, Ron DeSantis has struggled to gain ground on Donald Trump and consolidate support among anti-Trump voters within the Republican party. This has forced DeSantis to shake up his campaign’s top brass and attempt a reboot.

**DeSantis’s Appearance at the Iowa State Fair**
During his appearance at the Iowa State Fair, DeSantis focused on bashing Washington, touting his anti-lockdown pandemic policies, and vowing to dismantle drug cartels. However, he did not mention Trump in his onstage conversation with Iowa governor Kim Reynolds. The mounting sense of urgency for DeSantis to make progress was evident as a banner flew overhead, urging him to be more likeable.

**DeSantis’s Positioning as an Alternative to Trump**
Political scientist Donna Hoffman suggests that DeSantis is positioning himself as an alternative in case Trump’s support dwindles. DeSantis recognizes the need to build momentum and gain traction among voters.

**Trump’s Dominance and Congressional Endorsements**
Meanwhile, Trump remains dominant within the Republican party and did not appear on stage with Iowa governor Kim Reynolds during his visit to the Iowa State Fair. Trump introduced several members of Congress who spoke on his behalf, showcasing his significant influence within the party. Although Trump has the most congressional endorsements among Republican presidential candidates, he has yet to receive endorsements from Iowa.

**Iowa Poll Results and the Challenge for DeSantis**
According to the latest New York Times/Siena poll in Iowa, Trump leads with 44% of the Republican vote, with DeSantis in second place at 20%, and Tim Scott in third with 9%. DeSantis faces a challenging battle on two fronts in the Midwestern state. He must chip away at Trump’s support without explicitly criticizing him, despite the criminal charges Trump has faced. Additionally, DeSantis must be vigilant about rising competition from other candidates, including Tim Scott, Vivek Ramaswamy, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence.

**Voters’ Perspectives on DeSantis and Competing Candidates**
Denise Sutter, a farmer, expressed her changing opinion of DeSantis, suggesting that candidates who start with high support often fall while others rise. She expressed interest in Tim Scott and appreciated his stance on certain issues. Similarly, Kevin Johnson, a Lutheran pastor, emphasized the impact of Mike Pence’s speech, praising his pro-life stance, conservative values, and commitment to border security.

**Challenges Faced by DeSantis and His Critics**
Critics have raised concerns that DeSantis appears too wooden on the campaign trail, focuses excessively on his anti-woke agenda instead of economic issues, moves too far to the right on subjects like abortion, and fails to directly challenge Trump. DeSantis defended his campaign overhaul, which involved changing campaign managers and staff layoffs, by highlighting his decision-making skills and accountability as an executive.

**Still Seen as the Most Viable Trump Alternative**
Despite criticisms, some supporters view DeSantis as the most viable alternative to Trump. They trust his proven track record as a governor and admire his handling of the Covid issue in Florida. However, they also acknowledge his reluctance to confront Trump directly, favoring a high road approach.

**The Significance of Winning the Iowa Caucus**
While winning the Iowa caucus does not guarantee winning the White House, defeating Trump in the first contest could be crucial for his challengers. Some Iowans have already expressed shifts in their voting preferences, with one attendee at DeSantis’s event stating that she no longer plans to vote for Trump due to his lack of social conservatism.

**The Future of DeSantis’s Campaign**
As the Iowa State Fair serves as a key testing ground for presidential hopefuls, DeSantis’s ability to gain momentum and support will be closely watched. With several competing candidates and the dominance of Trump’s base, DeSantis faces an uphill battle. Whether he can overcome these challenges and emerge as a strong contender remains to be seen.

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