HomeUS News updateRon DeSantis feels the love in Iowa. That might not be enough.

Ron DeSantis feels the love in Iowa. That might not be enough.

DES MOINES, Iowa – To hear Florida Gov. As Ron DeSantis pointed it out, he’s exactly the kind of winner that Republicans here in Iowa — and across the country — are looking for in a presidential candidate.

He beat his Democratic opponent, a former governor, by nearly 20 points in 2022 to put an exclamation point on turning the swing state into Republican country. He beat vaccine mandates, critical race theory and lessons on sexual orientation for young grade-schoolers. He sent undocumented immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, where many Democratic veterans spend their summers.

DeSantis also knocked Mickey Mouse off his cartoon can.

It was love at first sound bite for the Iowa Republican, who flocked to Davenport and Des Moines, vote-rich cities Friday, to deliver stump-style speeches that will be one of the keys to winning the GOP presidential caucuses next year. But love doesn’t always mean voting for a candidate.

“They’ll show up, they’ll ask questions, they’ll call them out on things or they’ll ask ‘Okay, give me some more details’ or ‘What about this?'” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds told voters the way the president was doing during the months. Check out the candidates for the position.

“I think they’re going to hold on and just — they want to win,” Reynolds said in an exclusive interview with NBC News. “I think we’re in Iowa. And probably, honestly for most of the country. They want to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward, so that we’re successful in 2024.”

Reynolds, who has not endorsed a candidate, helped introduce DeSantis to the Iowa Republican Friday, conducted onstage question-and-answer sessions and then worked with the crowd after his speeches. They both signed copies of DeSantis’ new book, “The Courage to Be Free”.

For voters and political leaders alike, DeSantis proved to be a strong draw on Friday. Between speeches – to audiences of 700 or more at each stop – DeSantis met with Republican state legislators in the capital.

Usually, these legislators make a quick getaway out of town on a weekend when they are not in session. But dozens stuck around Des Moines for DeSantis to get his own feel.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whittaker said, “It’s a little difficult to get the crowds on Friday,” but 40-50 Iowa Republicans from both chambers turned out to hear Florida Gov. “To get almost half of the Republican legislators on Friday afternoon, that’s a pretty good turnout.”

Sticking to the script for his speeches—talking about making Florida a “blueprint” for the rest of the states—DeSantis did not directly acknowledge presidential aspirations to the group of lawmakers.

He didn’t have to.

“It certainly looks like he’s at least exploring it, but I think after tomorrow, he’ll be very optimistic about the turnout and the reception he’ll get here,” Whittower said.

In a political-skill maze — stump speeches, question-and-answer sessions from a podium, working a rope line and meeting with Republican officials in the state — DeSantis must have begun to gain a feel for the harsh retail campaigning common. Usually Iowa needs to win. Unlike Florida, where campaigns are run mostly through expensive TV markets, the Iowa caucuses seek frequent visits from candidates.

At least in his first outing, DeSantis delivered plenty of crowd-pleasing lines. Perhaps the biggest reaction in Davenport was a controversial move by the governor of Florida to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

“I am tired of the elite imposing their vision on you and us over open borders and not facing the consequences. So we thought it was worth it to send 50 illegals into Martha’s Vineyard,” DeSantis said. At that, the crowd jumped to their feet, enthusiastically clapping, cheering and whistling, so loud that Florida Gov. had to raise her voice to get out her next line: “They say they want sanctuary cities… you know what they did? They deported them the next day!

At another point, he again challenged Biden to allow tennis star Novak Djokovic into the country for a tournament in Miami, even though Djokovic has refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19. DeSantis said that if Djokovic “wants to meet us in the Bahamas, we’ll bring him here by boat.”

Similarly, he said he would instruct Florida builders to erect a wall along the southern border with Mexico if only Biden would allow it.

After the events concluded, DeSantis did not take questions from the media. But he was inundated with requests to sign copies of his new book (a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, he noted) and to take selfies.

“We love you, Ron!” someone in the crowd called out while working the rope line in Davenport. Several attendees wandered to the back of the room in search of a copy of DeSantis’ book, but instead found dozens of empty boxes loaded onto a gurney.

In Des Moines, Rob Corry, 55, who described himself as a consultant, said he is open-minded about the 2024 Republican field. But he praised DeSantis.

“He’s young. And he’s fresh, and he’s smart. And he does great things for his state. And I think we need some new blood,” Corey said. “There was a time for Trump. There was a good time for Trump. Maybe that time has passed.”

Trump, who finished second in the Iowa caucuses in 2016 but won the general election contest in Iowa that year and again in 2020, will begin making his case to the state’s voters at a rally on Monday in Davenport. Reynolds told NBC News she plans to attend.

A member of the crowd applauds in Davenport, Iowa, for Florida Gov.
A member of the crowd applauds Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Davenport, Iowa, on Friday.Ron Johnson / AP



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