Candidates Return To Iowa Caucus Trail As New Poll Shows Opening For Trump Challengers

Robin Opsahl, Iowa Capital Dispatch

Former President Donald Trump has kept a hold on his frontrunner position as candidates head back to the Iowa campaign trail, but new polling shows there could be room for others to gain footing in the field.

A Fox Business poll of Iowa Republicans published Sunday found Trump had the largest base of support with 46% of likely Republican caucusgoers choosing the former president. But no candidate has a lock on the position of Trump’s strongest challenger.

While former Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis kept his second-place position, he was 30 points behind Trump with just 16% of caucusgoers supporting him. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott came in third at 11%, and all other candidates earned single digits or less.

Among Trump supporters, 34% said they support DeSantis and 14% Scott as their second choice. For DeSantis supporters, 33% support Trump and 23% support Scott, giving the South Carolina senator an opportunity to grow his reach in the first-in-the-nation state. The poll was conducted July 15 through 19 with 806 likely Republican caucus participants, and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

When DeSantis launched his campaign in late May, some Republicans and analysts said the Florida governor would have the best shot at overtaking Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. But the path forward has not been as easy as some DeSantis supporters thought. Recent campaign finance disclosures show high spending on the campaign trail, and the DeSantis team promised a campaign “reboot” during a Utah event with donors and fundraisers.

DeSantis is looking to organize more in Iowa through the supporting super PAC Never Back Down. The organization currently employs 21 political staffers and 125 canvassers in Iowa, with plans for five offices in the state by August. The governor plans to hold three events with Never Back Down Thursday in Chariton, Osceola and Oskaloosa — aiming to take advantage of Trump giving DeSantis an “opening in Iowa” on the campaign trail.

The former president criticized Gov. Kim Reynolds for remaining neutral in the 2024 Republican presidential field on Truth Social, the social media platform he founded, earlier in July. Trump said he does not invite Reynolds to events and implied she won her 2018 election because of his endorsement and support.

Reynolds told reporters that she owes her 2018 win to “the Iowans who actually put their trust in me.” She also said that she has invited all candidates, including Trump, to speak with her for one-on-one “Fair Side Chats” at the Iowa State Fair.

Trump met with Fox News host Sean Hannity for an interview in Cedar Rapids earlier in July, and will meet with supporters at his campaign office opening in Urbandale Friday. He also plans to speak Friday at the Iowa Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Dinner alongside 12 other candidates. Almost all the 2024 GOP candidates, with the exception of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who does not plan on campaigning in Iowa, plan to speak at the event.

With the upcoming cattle call, multiple candidates are planning to hold other events in Iowa. Four candidates — Larry Elder, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Perry Johnson and Miami mayor Francis Suarez will speak at a forum on entrepreneurship in Cedar Rapids earlier Friday. Scott plans to hold an event with Reynolds on Thursday in Ankeny; former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will hold a town hall in Iowa City Saturday and former Vice President Mike Pence will attend the Clinton County GOP Annual Hog Roast in Clinton Sunday.

Candidates hoping to build their presence in Iowa are also seeking to use that support to make it on the debate stage. So far, seven candidates have met the polling and fundraising criteria to appear on stage at the Republican National Committee’s first debate, scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has not met the polling threshold to qualify, but announced reaching the fundraising requirement of 40,000 unique donors Wednesday. Burgum’s campaign has offered $20 gift cards to those who donate $1 to his campaign in a bid to meet the debate criteria, with some experts questioning on the legality of the practice.

Burgum plans to speak at the Lincoln Dinner, but has not publicly announced any other events in the days surrounding the event.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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