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Trump blasts DeSantis in Iowa, says GOP rival ‘despises’ the state’s ethanol


Associated Press

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) — Campaigning in Iowa on Friday, former President Donald Trump attacked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as an enemy of corn-based ethanol in his largest campaign event in the leadoff caucus state in nearly four months.

Trump, appearing in Council Bluffs in the western part of the state, criticized his top 2024 Republican presidential rival for voting as a member of Congress to oppose the federal mandate for the fuel additive that Iowa leads the nation in producing.

Trump declared himself “the most pro-farmer president that you’ve ever had” at the event, which was aimed at promoting his administration’s agricultural record and touting his oversight of clawbacks of regulations on farmers. “I fought for Iowa ethanol like no president in history.”

On a rainy Friday, Trump spoke to more than 1,000 Iowans and Nebraskans packed into the event, with hundreds more in line outside the Mid-America Center arena.

As a congressman from Florida, DeSantis co-sponsored a bill in 2017 that would have immediately ended the renewable fuel standard, a position consistent with fiscal conservatives who see such mandates as government overreach.

“Iowa also needs to know that Ron DeSanctus totally despises Iowa ethanol and ethanol generally,” Trump said, intentionally mispronouncing his rival’s name as he routinely does. “He’s been fighting it for years. Don’t forget, as a congressman he was voting against it, and fighting for years to kill every single job.”

Trump spoke for 80 minutes, blending his attacks on DeSantis and President Joe Biden with asides on such subjects as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — “I told him: Don’t do it.” — an impression of French President Emmanuel Macron and a dismissal of climate change science, saying during the hottest week in history that global warming is just going to give more people beachfront property.

He touted his three picks for the Supreme Court, who helped make up the majority that voted to overturn Roe v. Wade on abortion last year and to end affirmative action in college admissions last week. He urged caution in the way that Republicans talk about life after Roe and cast the decision as an opportunity for bargaining at the state and federal levels.

“That issue has to be spoken about properly because Republicans, many of them don’t speak about it properly,” he said. He added: “It’s really a great victory to get something done. You now have tremendous power to negotiate something.”

Trump took three audience questions and then headed to a local Dairy Queen, where he planned to mingle with workers and customers.

Although Iowa’s caucus campaigns have become more focused on national party priorities over the past two decades, some candidates have continued to portray support for ethanol — specifically the federal requirement that the nation’s fuel supply contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels — as a litmus test in the state.

Ethanol is a fuel additive blended with gasoline and sold across the country that is usually produced by fermenting corn. The ethanol industry consumes about half of Iowa’s corn crop, and the state leads the nation in corn and ethanol production.

As a candidate, Trump has promoted the executive order he signed as president increasing the retail sale of fuel containing 15% ethanol.

Recent history, however, suggests a lack of support for ethanol may not be disqualifying. In 2016, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who opposes the mandate, won Iowa’s Republican caucuses, handing Trump an early defeat in his ultimately successful White House campaign.

As he arrived in Iowa, Trump also rolled out his Farmers for Trump Coalition, a group co-chaired by officials including Reps. Mike Sexton and Derek Wulf, the top two Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee.

Before Friday, Trump’s last large event in Iowa was in March, when he spoke to more than 1,500 people at a theater in Davenport and also went after DeSantis on ethanol. He was due to hold an outdoor event in May in Des Moines with about 5,000 expected, but his campaign called it off because of a tornado warning.

The large Republican presidential field has spent a lot of time over the past few months in Iowa, the leadoff GOP caucus state. In June, more than a half dozen candidates, including DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, attended Sen. Joni Ernst’s annual “Roast and Ride” fundraiser that kicked off a busy summer campaign season.

Trump campaigned in the Des Moines area last month, meeting with GOP state lawmakers, conservative pastors, campaign volunteers and a suburban Republican breakfast club. That visit came about a week before he was indicted on federal charges.


Associated Press writer Meg Kinnard contributed to this report from Columbia, South Carolina.

Article Topic Follows: AP National

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