Trump and DeSantis Jab at Each Other 06/02 06:14
GRIMES, Iowa (AP) -- Former President Donald Trump kept up a steady drumbeat
of criticism of his chief rival Ron DeSantis on Thursday, jumping immediately
on remarks by the Florida governor on the campaign trail to try to highlight
his own strength as the leading GOP presidential candidate.
Trump, appearing in Iowa as DeSantis campaigned in New Hampshire, made a
point of telling about 200 members of a conservative club gathered at a Des
Moines-area restaurant that they could ask him questions -- an offer that came
not long after DeSantis snapped at an Associated Press reporter who asked him
why he wasn't taking questions from voters at his events.
"A lot of politicians don't take questions. They give a speech," Trump said
to audience members, many of whom wore red "Make America Great Again" hats
espousing his political movement.
Trump, throughout the day, also repeatedly pushed back against DeSantis'
argument that it will take two terms in the White House to implement an agenda
-- a veiled reference to Trump, who can only serve one additional term.
"Who the hell wants to wait eight years?" Trump said, claiming it would only
take him six months to unwind President Joe Biden's policies.
DeSantis, asked about the former president's comment while leaving a voter
event in Rochester on Thursday afternoon, noted that Trump had already had a
chance to fix the nation's problems in his first term in office. "Why didn't he
do it in his first four years?" he asked.
Their campaign appearances displayed an early tableau of the Republican
primary that's just getting underway: Trump hammering DeSantis and promising to
use a return to the White House to quickly undo his successor's work, while the
governor limits his replies and direct critiques, pitching instead to
nationalize his aggressive governing style.
Both men are portraying themselves as the stronger fighter for conservative
causes and their party's best chance to block Biden from reelection next year.
Thursday was the first time both were on the campaign trail meeting with voters
since DeSantis announced his candidacy for president last week.
At all four of his events in New Hampshire, DeSantis left the stage without
inviting any questions from voters, which is typically expected of presidential
candidates competing in the first-in-the-nation primary state. DeSantis also
didn't take any questions on stage from voters in Iowa during his time in the
state earlier in the week.
While posing for pictures and shaking hands with voters after speaking at
his first event in Laconia, DeSantis was asked by the AP reporter why he wasn't
taking questions from people in the audience.
"People are coming up to me, talking to me. What are you talking about? Are
you blind?" he said. "Are you blind? People are coming up to me, talking to me
whatever they want to talk to me about."
Alan Glassman, treasurer of the state GOP, attended the event and said he
was disappointed that the Florida governor didn't include a question-and-answer
period. Glassman and his wife decided to skip any subsequent events of the day
given that DeSantis wasn't likely to take unscripted questions.
"This is New Hampshire. The reality here is the vast majority of political
people here in New Hampshire, we do our due diligence. We want to know where
these people stand. And a lot of that is hearing from them and then asking them
questions," Glassman said.
"I'm just hoping that next time the governor does show up here, he'll
actually be doing some more interaction with the people," Glassman said.
In addition to his subtle jabs at Trump, DeSantis in New Hampshire turned
his focus to Biden, criticizing him for championing a move to demote the
early-voting state from its prominent role picking presidential candidates. He
said the president was wrong to back a Democratic National Committee move to
have New Hampshire hold its Democratic primary the same day as Nevada as part
of a major shakeup meant to empower Black and other minority voters critical to
the party's base of support.
The Republican Party's calendar is decided separately, but the Democrats'
changes have irked members of both parties in New Hampshire.
"I'm glad Republicans are holding the line and committed to New Hampshire,"
Matt Johnson, a 55-year-old consultant from Windham, New Hampshire, who
attended DeSantis' third event of the day in Salem, said Trump and DeSantis
present voters with a real choice but he liked that DeSantis "has proven he
actually can get stuff done in government."
Trump "talked a lot and he got some stuff done but he didn't really get a
lot of things done that he probably should have," Johnson said. "As for the
cult of personality thing, I've had enough of that."
But Walter Kirsch, 64, of Warner, New Hampshire, said Republicans must
realize that, despite being "gruff" at times, Trump will ultimately be the
party's nominee in 2024. Warner, who was among several dozen supporters waving
Trump flags outside a DeSantis event Thursday evening in Manchester, said he
hoped DeSantis "will think about what he's doing and bow out of this and give
it to the man who's earned it."
"Ron DeSantis has been doing an amazing job in Florida. He should stay
there. I feel he may be destroying his political career," Kirsch said.
Seeking to draw a contrast with DeSantis, Trump took questions from voters
at all of his Thursday events, which included a breakfast meeting in Urbandale,
a Trump team volunteer leadership training event outside Des Moines in Grimes
and a private meeting with about 50 pastors at a Des Moines church, though the
last event was closed to the media.
He later recorded a town hall with Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity in the
Des Moines suburb of Clive that aired Thursday evening, telling the host
DeSantis had "had a very bad day today. He got very angry at the press."
As Trump and DeSantis make their pitch to GOP voters, the Republican
presidential field is shaping up to become even more crowded.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to launch a Republican
presidential campaign June 6 in New Hampshire. The next day, both Mike Pence,
Trump's former vice president, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum are expected
to announce campaigns of their own.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley,
former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and biotech entrepreneur and "anti-woke"
activist Vivek Ramaswamy are among the other candidates already in the race.
During the town hall, Trump called the ballooning field -- which critics
worry will split the anti-Trump vote -- a "good thing" for his candidacy, but
wondered why some long-shot candidates are bothering.
"What's the purpose?" he asked. "I don't understand what they're doing."