Beginning a hectic week that will take him to 12 cities in three states as he tests his case as the most formidable Republican opponent to former President Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis plans to launch his presidential campaign in Iowa on Tuesday.
After making an awkward online announcement last week, the Florida governor’s two-day journey to the leadoff caucus state, which begins at a suburban Des Moines megachurch and ends at a racetrack in Cedar Rapids, confirmed his long-anticipated entry into the expanding Republican field.
Stops in early primary states like South Carolina and New Hampshire will come after it.
DeSantis’ planned visit to Eternity Church in Clive on Tuesday night is a clear gesture to the evangelical Christians who have had a significant impact on Iowa’s Republican presidential primary.
Voters will get the chance to see the new contender during his visit, which comes as he has intensified his criticism of Trump.
He’s got a big hill to climb — and I think everybody would agree with that — to be able to convince people that he can overcome Trump, that he can do a job as good as, if not better than, Trump,” said Bernie Hayes, the Republican chair in Linn County, where DeSantis plans to wrap up his Iowa jaunt Wednesday.
DeSantis, who had been attacked by Trump for months, switched from taking indirect shots to questioning the former directly.
As a member of Congress, DeSantis voted for an early version of the measure but left Congress after he was elected governor and before the final, less stringent bill passed.
DeSantis called the bipartisan bill Trump signed in 2018 that reduced mandatory minimum federal prison sentences and allowed a pathway for non-violent offenders to reduce prison time “a jailbreak bill.”
In addition, DeSantis claimed that Trump had inadvertently “turned the country over to Fauci,” alluding to Anthony Fauci, the former head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who assisted in coordinating the nation’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
On May 24, DeSantis declared his candidacy during an online discussion with Twitter CEO Elon Musk.
The announcement’s audio feed frequently collapsed, making it challenging for most users to hear it in real time.
Campaign leaders and others soon shrugged off the issue as a small setback.