The candidates who confirmed up in Des Moines did loads of good for themselves.
DeSantis, who stepped on a few of his applause traces, spent a very long time mixing with voters — a few of it outdoors a bus (that he signed with the assistance of his 3-year-old daughter, Mamie) rented by his allied By no means Again Down tremendous PAC. A leather-clad Pence acquired credit score for making the bike trip to the venue that almost all candidates skipped. “I roasted on that trip,” he joked, promising to carry again Trump-era insurance policies and prosperity (“after which some”) and previewing his announcement speech subsequent week.
Tim Scott and Nikki Haley shared their private tales and the overlapping lesson they’d realized — that America isn’t racist. “The reality of my life disproves the lies of the novel left,” mentioned Scott; “America isn’t racist, we’re blessed,” mentioned Haley.
However offstage, the most popular subject was nonetheless the frontrunner who hadn’t even bothered to indicate up.
“Clearly, Trump leads by fairly a margin,” Sen. Chuck Grassley advised Semafor. “However no one can take Iowans without any consideration, and loads of issues change, as a result of folks spend a lot time right here.”
DeSantis particularly was hounded with questions from the press about his important competitor — what message did it ship that he confirmed as much as Iowa, however Trump didn’t? May he respond to Trump declaring he didn’t “just like the time period woke”? And what had been his ideas on the previous president’s reward of North Korean chief Kim Jong Un?
That final query appeared to attract in probably the most candidates. “Kim Jong Un is a murderous dictator,” DeSantis advised Fox Information. “Whether or not it’s my former working mate or anybody else — nobody needs to be praising the dictator in North Korea or praising the chief of Russia, who has launched an unprovoked warfare of aggression in Ukraine,” Pence additionally advised Fox Information offstage. “You don’t congratulate a thug,” Haley added.
For Trump, the absence was possible strategic: Displaying up might serve to legitimize the slew of candidates vying to take him down. It’s the identical logic that has some near him encouraging him to skip the debates.
Voters had been clearly within the buffet of choices accessible to them; one lady, upon being approached by a Trump volunteer, even bluntly declared she wasn’t “for Trump”. But it surely wasn’t clear that there was an awesome subsequent alternative, at the same time as DeSantis clearly generated probably the most pleasure in Trump’s absence.
Notably, a few of Saturday’s loudest applause went to candidates who Trump sees as non-threatening. Trump welcomed Scott into the race with no insults, and has praised Ramaswamy for having “solely good issues to say” about him. (One purpose Chris Christie will enter the race tomorrow is his frustration in how many of the area fortunately co-exists with Trump.)