Cedar Rapids, IA – As Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took a major presidential campaign milestone Saturday afternoon inIn Iowa, former President Donald Trump largely ignored his Republican opponent by taking aim at another rival, President Biden, as the two candidates held dueling rallies in the state.
At an event in Cedar Rapids, Trump focused his attacks on Mr. Biden, who he said is “destroying American democracy.” Trump appears to be seeking to have the primary election over before votes have been cast, and to focus his attention on his 2020 rival.
The Trump campaign handed out new signs reading “Biden Attacks Democracy” to rally attendees on Saturday.
“Joe Biden is not the defender of American democracy. Joe Biden is the destroyer of American democracy,” Trump told a packed Kirkwood Community College gymnasium, describing the 91 criminal charges he faces.as politicized.
In a social media post on his Truth Social platform on Wednesday, Trump made the unverified claim that Biden had “the Department of Justice and others suing me wherever and whenever possible – WEAPONMENTED, as we call it, and maybe it can make a difference.”
Additionally, Trump also pledged to appoint a special prosecutor to “prosecute” Mr. Biden if Trump were to win the presidency in 2024.
Trump’s attacks come as he suffered two legal setbacks Friday. A federal judgeto dismiss the 2020 election interference case filed by the special prosecutor against him, while a federal appeals court that Trump is not entitled to broad immunity from civil lawsuits related to the January 6 Capitol insurrection.
Biden’s re-election campaign has pushed back against claims that Mr. Biden is personally attacking Trump.
“Donald Trump’s America in 2025 is one where government is his personal weapon to lock up his political enemies. You don’t have to take our word for it – Trump admitted as much himself,” the door said -Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa. “After spending a week defending his plan to take away health care from millions of Americans, this is his latest desperate attempt at diversion: the American people see through it and it won’t work.”
The choice to focus on Mr. Biden rather than the ongoing Republican presidential primary was notable.
Trump only mentioned DeSantis a few times, saying DeSantis’ campaign was falling “like a very badly wounded bird,” and repeating claims that he helped get DeSantis elected during his gubernatorial run in 2020.
Less than 100 miles away, in the Jasper County town of Newton, it was a different story for DeSantis, who was completing a “full Grassley,” the nickname given to a tour of Iowa’s 99 counties.
With just 44 days until the Iowa caucus, DeSantis has offered fresh attacks on Trump, who hasover him in state and national polls.
DeSantis argued that completing his 99-county tour showed that he considers himself “a servant, not a ruler. And that’s how elected officials should view themselves.”
DeSantis, his campaign and his allies often assert that Trump feels “entitled” to be nominated by the Republican Party, given his relatively lighter campaign schedule.
“I’ve been very outspoken with my views on President Trump’s campaign,” DeSantis told the crowd at Thunderdome, a wedding venue in Jasper County.
He added that Trump is “campaigning on things he promised to do in (2016) and hasn’t kept.” DeSantis cited Trump’s promise to build a wall on the southern border, his call to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., and his call to create a so-called “special counsel for Democrats.”
DeSantis then turned his attention to Trump’s response at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, calling it the “wrong approach.”
“Knowing what we know now, would you still do the same things that you would do? His answer to that question is yes,” DeSantis said. “And for me, it’s disqualifying because this can never happen to our country again,”
DeSantis also criticized how, in his final days as president, Trump gave a glowing mention to Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
DeSantis also accused Trump of failing to support those who have been criminally charged and convicted for their involvement in the case..
“Did he help the people who were caught up in the Capitol stuff, who he told to go? Did he give them any support? No, but he praised Dr. Fauci during on his last day in office,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis was introduced by evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds,approved it. In his introduction, Vander Plaats said the country needed a “God-fearing man” and pleaded for Trump supporters to support DeSantis instead.
“Voting for Ron DeSantis is not against Donald Trump, it is about the future of our country,” he said.
Ron Murray, an Iowa voter from Jasper County, the 99th county where DeSantis visited, seemed to agree with Vander Plaats’ speech. Murray said he was considering his options for the event, but left convinced he would vote for DeSantis.
“I believe (DeSantis) is a God-fearing man, and I don’t believe Trump is,” he said.