Former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made their presence felt at the annual Iowa-Iowa State football game, turning it into a political spectacle. Both 2024 presidential hopefuls attended the game at Jack Trice Stadium, with DeSantis accompanied by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. Trump, on the other hand, observed the game from a private suite but interacted with fans before the game, signing baseball caps and tossing a football into the crowd of tailgaters. The tension between Trump and DeSantis was evident, with each trying to win over Republican voters ahead of the crucial January caucus in Iowa.
The clash between the two politicians began earlier in the year when Trump publicly criticized Reynolds for being too friendly with DeSantis. Despite remaining neutral, Reynolds has often appeared alongside DeSantis during key Iowa events, much to Trump's dismay. However, the former president's dominant lead in the state's polls has made him the clear frontrunner.
In the lead-up to the game, a super PAC supporting DeSantis, called Never Back Down, released an online campaign ad targeting Trump for his previous support of transgender women competing in beauty pageants. Furthermore, a plane flew above the stadium carrying a banner that read "Where's Melania," mocking Trump's wife's absence from the campaign trail. This was in retaliation for a similar stunt pulled by Trump allies during the Iowa State Fair, where a banner mocked DeSantis.
The game itself, which saw the University of Iowa Hawkeyes defeat Iowa State University 20-13, was overshadowed by the political spectacle. Trump was met with a mix of cheers and boos as he entered the stadium, while DeSantis faced similar treatment during his time at the Iowa State Fair. Rival candidates, including Vivek Ramaswamy, Doug Burgum, and Asa Hutchinson, also made appearances at the game, hoping to gain attention in the crowded field of 2024 contenders.
Despite the distractions and attacks, both Trump and DeSantis maintained their focus on winning over Iowa voters. Trump's campaign criticized NBC over a report questioning his operation in Iowa, while DeSantis's campaign aimed for a strong second-place showing in the state.
The game may have been a battleground for these political rivals, but many attendees were more interested in the football rivalry between the two universities. The intense atmosphere and the excitement of the game took precedence for some, overshadowing the political tensions on display.
In the end, the game itself may not have lived up to the hype, as the score stood at 14-3 in favor of the Hawkeyes at halftime, leading many fans to leave early. Nevertheless, the clash between Trump and DeSantis added an extra layer of drama to the already highly anticipated matchup.
themes: Donald Trump Florida Iowa