If Monday was any indication, former President Donald Trump’s plan to defeat Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Iowa involves promising to cater to the state’s farmers at every turn.
On Monday, thousands of Iowa voters — many adorned with MAGA gear — lined up and down the block in the hopes of seeing Trump speak. Hours later, the former president arrived to a packed theater (plus a crowd still waiting outside) and honed in on his support for agriculture.
“I was the most pro-farmer president that has ever been in the White House, by far,” Trump told the crowd. “How could a farmer vote against me?” he later added.
He boasted of his record-setting farm subsidies, which surged under his administration to counteract the effects of a trade war he launched, bragged how he “ended the NAFTA disaster” with a new trade deal, and declared that his team had “put farmers first.”
Perhaps most notably, the former president sought to separate his record with farmers from DeSantis, citing his votes in Congress against existing biofuel mandates that boost the market for corn ethanol.
“Ron ‘DeSanctus’ strongly opposed ethanol, do you know that? And we don’t even know if he’s running … he strongly opposed ethanol and fought against it at every turn, and he’s gonna do that again,” Trump said.
It was one of several recent instances in which Trump has attacked DeSantis for his hardline conservative record in Congress, which also included votes to raise the age for retirement benefits. Once again, Trump made clear he would not let conservative ideology get in the way of a good campaign promise.
Still, there’s reason to believe the state, which DeSantis visited on Friday, could be competitive despite Trump’s success turning it red after President Obama won it twice. Trump lost Iowa in 2016 to Sen. Ted Cruz, who notably won the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus despite opposing ethanol mandates on free market grounds. Cruz’s victory was powered by a strong showing with evangelicals; Trump’s support from religious leaders who backed his re-election is notably soft so far.
The former president also saved some of his fire for Democrats. He promised “cancel every Biden policy that’s brutalizing our farmers” to roaring cheers. He cited a Biden administration rule imposing new protections on wetlands and waterways (which his administration repealed in 2019) and the current administration’s failed push to expand estate taxes, which farm interests lobbied hard against. And he blamed Biden for high fertilizer prices, which shot up after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created a global shortage.