Jay Waagmeester, Iowa Capital Dispatch
Former President Trump, rallying supporters in Ottumwa, Iowa, focused on other 2024 presidential candidates, especially Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for much of his time on stage.
Trump’s trip to Ottumwa is the first stop on his October tour around Iowa.
According to fivethirtyeight.com, Trump leads national polls, with 55.1% support. The next closest is DeSantis with 13.5% and Vivek Ramaswamy with 6.6%. In Iowa, Trump led the most recent poll, conducted by CBS News with 51%, to 21% for DeSantis. Haley was third with 8%.
Trump took repetitive jabs at the Florida governor, his only opponent polling in the double digits, saying “he’s like a really injured falling bird.”
DeSantis’ poll numbers keep him in second place but the margin has decreased since May and June. Trump called him “one of the most vicious opponents of Iowa ethanol.”
Trump criticized not just DeSantis, but also those who appeared in the second debate.
“By the way, all the other candidates are losing to him [DeSantis], which is hard to believe,” Trump said.
Trump did not attend the second GOP debate Wednesday, which featured seven candidates in California.
Trump did not skip out on California entirely, though. The former president spent two days there, including an appearance Friday at the state’s GOP convention, where he said those who rob stores “can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving that store.”
Trump’s comments of those on the debate stage garnered loud support from attendees.
“Asa Hutchinson, I call him Ada … the guy has zero, why would be on stage,” Trump said before insulting former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who he called “sloppy Chris Christie.”
“He’s like a deranged person, he suffers from Trump derangement syndrome,” Trump said.
He also called out former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, calling her “bird brain.”
Linda Valentine, from Missouri, said Trump is her number one choice, and his absence from the debate did not affect her view. “I watched that debate the other night and all they did was argue,” Valentine said.
Trump spoke some about his indictments, one of which, a civil fraud trial in New York, will start Monday.
“I’m the only one that’s ever been indicted but my numbers have gone through the roof,” Trump said.
One attendee, Russ Jenkins from Winterset, said if Trump did something “pretty heinous,” he could drop as his favorite, but said Trump’s current indictments, including 91 felony charges, do not qualify as “heinous enough” to affect his opinion. Jenkins said the current charges against the former president do not have merit.
Doors to the event opened three hours in advance, and those at the front of the line had been there as early as 7:30 a.m. By the time the doors opened to the event, a line had formed around the parking lot of the Ottumwa Bridge View Center.
Many of those waiting in line were most interested in talking about the economy and the U.S.-Mexico border.
Valentine’s main voting issues are the border, economy and fossil fuels, she said. “The border, I think right now is really bad, I think that’s ridiculous, the economy is bad for most common people,” Valentine said.
Bill Russell from Bloomfield said Trump is “the only one I’m going to vote for,” and nothing could take Trump out of the number one spot. Russell did say, though, that he’d like Trump to speak more about how to “keep American jobs here.”
Janice Bailey from Ottumwa said Trump is her favorite candidate, but said she was interested in Haley, “just a little,” for the way she can stand up to the men.
Bailey said Trump was the type of candidate that is needed now. “He’s not a politician, that’s what I like about him,” she said. “Even though he was our president, his mindset is more business and I think it takes a business person to run this country now.”
In addition to being a business person, Bailey said it takes a “crazy person,” to promote American interests abroad.
“People say he’s crazy,” Bailey said. “But you know what, it takes a crazy person to stand up to those other foreign leaders.”
Trump said President Joe Biden has three major problems, and encouraged voters that if his campaign wins the primaries, they have to show up in the general election.
“Joe Biden has three major problems, and all of them begin with ‘I,’ inflation, immigration and incompetence.”
Trump also called Biden “grossly incompetent and also extremely dishonest.”
The event, titled the Iowa Commit to Caucus Event, featured Trump campaign workers handing out information to attendees on how to caucus, explaining how the process works.
Trump told attendees multiple times the date of the caucuses, and told attendees to bring anywhere from three to 100 people to the polls.
Trump says EV owners ‘become schizophrenic’
Trump also spent time ridiculing electric cars, tractors, military tanks and boats.
“The happiest people in the world are the people who just got their electric vehicle charged, for ten minutes,” Trump said. “After that they become somewhat schizophrenic, because they’re thinking about where the hell am I going to get a recharge?”
Trump made several comments about logistical failures of electric vehicles, including that boat batteries are too heavy.
“Let’s say your boat goes down, I’m sitting on top of this big powerful battery…” Trump said. “And the water starts flooding in and I’m getting concerned, but then I look 10 yards to my left and there’s a shark over there, so I have a choice of electrocution or a shark, you know what I’m going to take? Electrocution, I will take electrocution every single time.”
Trump did not touch on his views on abortion, a topic that has drawn criticism from other GOP candidates. Trump has criticized DeSantis’ signing of a six-week abortion ban similar to the one Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law. In Iowa last month, Trump said other candidates do not know how to “properly talk” about the issue to win elections. Trump also previously said calling for a total ban on abortions could cost the GOP “another election.”
The former president, who appointed three justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, previously said he does not support a federal 15-week ban.
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