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Trump, DeSantis and other 2024 GOP prospects vie for attention during Iowa-Iowa State football game

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Donald Trump will face several Republican rivals on Saturday when he attends the college football game in Iowa, one of the former president’s few visits so far to the state that is holding its first nominating meeting.

Trump will walk into one of the state’s largest sports crowds at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, where Iowa State University will host the University of Iowa. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and a number of lesser-known candidates also plan to attend the race.

As the race enters its traditional heat after Labor Day, the former president has largely skipped holding town halls or participating in many of the state’s cherished campaign traditions, but has so far paid no price. Trump remains far ahead of DeSantis and other rivals in Iowa and nationally.

Former President Donald Trump will face several Republican rivals on Saturday.

Trump has made a habit of visiting Iowa on the same day as DeSantis, who Trump views as his biggest threat. Both men are expected to be in and around the stadium before kickoff, reminiscent of last month’s scene when Trump drew huge crowds to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines while DeSantis addressed a smaller crowd and with his family halfway through the rides.

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DeSantis is increasingly focused on winning or finishing high in Iowa, saying he has already visited more than half of the state’s 99 counties. Trump has made just five visits to Iowa this year.

Trump is expected to attend the 2:30 p.m. game and not a local county GOP tailgate party in nearby Nevada, Iowa, where North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and the biotech Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy will appear.

Instead of large-scale rallies, Trump is relying on state party events that provide large, friendly audiences at no cost to his campaign, while his political organization is paying millions of dollars in legal fees as he faces four criminal charges. He attended a state party fundraiser Friday evening in neighboring South Dakota with Gov. Kristi Noem, who endorsed him.

Trump’s campaign has also used digital outreach. Last week, Trump held a conference call with tens of thousands of Iowans. He’s hosted a number of in-person events with voters — in June he handed out Dairy Queen “Blizzards,” while also admitting out loud he didn’t know what the soft treats were.

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There is no comparable example in Iowa’s political history of a former president running to reclaim his old office while also being charged with more than 90 crimes. But other high-profile candidates and strong frontrunners have run the town hall and retail campaigns for which Iowa and other early primary states are known.

In 2007, then-Sen. Hillary Clinton entered the race for the Democratic nomination in 2008 as a national celebrity and the party’s strong favorite in national polls. Drawing a larger audience, Clinton tried to meet demand by holding smaller rallies with local activists before speaking to packed gyms and venues.

Clinton also attended party events with her lesser-known rivals to demonstrate her willingness to endure the severity that Iowans typically demand. Ultimately, she lost the 2008 caucus to then-Sen. Barack Obama, who ultimately won the nomination, and the White House.

Trump has omitted all but one such event in Iowa this year. The exception was the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Dinner in July, a major event that helps fund the caucus.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DeSantis, Trump will attend Saturday’s Iowa vs. football game. Iowa State

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