Former President Donald Trump lashed out at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday, using his 2024 debut speech in Iowa to rehash his longtime 2020 campaign claims and attack his would-be political rival days after the Florida Republican made an appearance in the Hawkeye State.
In a campaign event in Davenport that was billed by Trump’s campaign as an address on education policy, the former president appeared preoccupied by just about anything other than America’s schools.
He boasted about the work he did to “save” the ethanol industry, bragged about how he moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and rehashed his baseless claim that he was robbed of a second term in the White House by widespread voter fraud.
“What they do to those machines — what they’re doing, our country is really being hurt very badly,” Trump told the friendly crowd.
He went after DeSantis, a rising Republican star who’s preparing for a likely 2024 presidential bid, accusing the Florida governor of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare, and comparing him to Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee and a vocal Trump critic.
He also called DeSantis a “disciple” of former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who served as Romney’s running mate in 2012.
“You have to remember, Ron was a disciple of Paul Ryan, who is a RINO loser who currently is destroying Fox [News] and would constantly vote against entitlements,” Trump said, using an acronym for “Republican in name only.”
“But Ryan, Paul Ryan is a big reason Mitt Romney … lost his election,” the former president continued. “And to be honest with you, Ron reminds me a lot of Mitt Romney, so I don’t think you’re going to be doing so well here.”
Trump’s remarks came during the first Iowa stop of his 2024 presidential bid. He’s been officially seeking the Republican nomination since November, but has largely stayed off the campaign trail.
His trip to Davenport came just three days after DeSantis stopped in the same city. A Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of Iowa Republicans released on Friday showed Trump’s standing in the Hawkeye State on the decline, with 47 percent saying they would definitely vote for the former president if he is the party’s nominee in 2024, a 22-point decline since June 2021.
Other current and prospective GOP presidential hopefuls have made trips to Iowa in recent weeks, including former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Vice President Mike Pence.
Speaking in Davenport on Monday, Trump boasted that he was “laying out a bold forward looking vision” for the country if he wins back the White House in 2024. But his remarks largely focused on his first term in office. Not only did he resurface his false election claims, but he went on an extended tangent about U.S. border security, an issue that helped define his first presidential campaign in 2016.
But at other points, he appeared to echo DeSantis, who’s made a name for himself in politics by pushing for and implementing ultra-conservative education policies. Trump, at one point, vowed to “bring parental rights back into our school system,” suggesting that the education system had been overrun by “people that hate our country.”
In one particularly notable moment, he vowed to “end ‘woke'” – a word that has become linked to DeSantis and his political brand. At another point, he said that “what they’re teaching in schools today is insane.”
“Together we will end the era of weaponized government forever,” Trump said. “We will end woke.”