Trump returns to Iowa, where his rivals see their best opportunity | ET REALITY

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Even as former President Donald J. Trump faces a crowded field of Republican primary rivals, he has maintained a relatively light campaign schedule, particularly in Iowa, the first state to hold a nominating contest in the 2024 election.

But with less than four months until the Iowa caucuses, Trump and his team are beginning a more concerted effort to secure his support there, beginning with two events Wednesday in eastern Iowa that represent the first of five planned visits to the state. for the next six weeks.

The increasing pace of Trump’s visits to Iowa, along with a six-figure ad buy by a super PAC that supports him, suggest a more concerted effort by his campaign and his supporters to stop his rivals. before anyone can gain momentum and pose a threat.

With Trump maintaining a commanding lead among Republicans in both national and Iowa polls, some rivals have made invading the state a cornerstone of their strategies, hoping that a victory there could help them rally support. in later primaries.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is often considered Trump’s strongest rival in polls, has made Iowa a particular focal point, planning to visit its 99 counties and build a strong state operation. Vivek Ramaswamy, a businessman and political neophyte who has gained increased support since last month’s Republican debate, has also been blitzing the state talking to voters.

It is not yet clear whether this strategy will be effective. Trump still exerts a firm grip on the Republican base and did not need to win the caucus in 2016 to receive his party’s nomination. And even as a Emerson College Survey released last week showed that Trump’s support among Iowa Republican voters declined slightly over the past four months, still remaining 35 percentage points ahead of DeSantis.

Trump’s campaign has said it has collected more than 27,000 cards in which voters pledge to support the former president in the caucuses. His Wednesday events — at a “caucus engagement” event in Maquoketa and at a convention center in Dubuque — will be aimed in part at helping organize supporters ahead of the Jan. 15 vote.

“President Trump’s aggressive schedule in Iowa reflects his continued commitment to building support in the state, one voter at a time,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement.

Trump has made seven trips to Iowa this year, far behind other candidates. He has skipped some of Iowa’s big multi-candidate events, including a major gathering of evangelical Christians on Saturday that is often a staple of the Republican campaign.

Trump has remained popular among evangelical voters even as he has expressed views that might normally alienate them, including his reluctance to support a federal abortion ban. In an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he criticized DeSantis for signing a six-week abortion ban in Florida that Trump called “a terrible thing.”

His last two appearances were at high-profile, well-covered events: the Iowa State Fair in August and the Iowa-Iowa State football game this month.

His speeches on Wednesday, likely on a slightly smaller scale, will coincide with increased advertising spending by MAGA Inc., the super PAC backing his campaign. The group spent more than $700,000 on ads in Iowa last week and this week, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact.

Similar groups backing DeSantis and Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, each spent more than $1 million in that same period.

Nicolas Nehamas contributed with reports.

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