DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — In his first trip to Iowa this yr, Ron DeSantis didn’t take any questions from voters. He ignored the native press. He averted the diners, pizza parlors and ice cream outlets which have helped presidential contenders within the leadoff voting state showcase their private attraction and charisma for many years.
For DeSantis, a leading Republican presidential prospect, it was merely enterprise as traditional.
The hard-charging Florida governor has emerged as a potent power in nationwide politics whereas eschewing the private connections, intimate moments and unscripted questions which have lengthy fueled profitable White Home bids within the states that sit atop the presidential main calendar. And as DeSantis begins to introduce himself to main voters within the weeks main as much as his anticipated announcement, he’s exhibiting little curiosity in altering his methods.
Allies insist he would not want to regulate something, pointing to his dominant 19-point reelection victory final fall. However already, his Republican rivals — led by former President Donald Trump — are working to spotlight the governor’s go-it-alone strategy and impersonal type by leaning into their very own private interactions on the marketing campaign path.
The dangers for DeSantis have gotten more and more apparent in smaller rural states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which is able to host three of the primary 4 presidential main contests in 2024.
“Nobody’s gotten to know him the best way they should get to know him. I don’t know in the event that they ever will,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, himself a possible candidate, stated of DeSantis throughout a latest interview. “Do you suppose Ron DeSantis has ever sat down for a cup of espresso with a reporter? No. It’s like bodily not in him. He can’t do it. He doesn’t have that social reference to of us.”
Maybe nobody is paying nearer consideration than Trump, who views DeSantis as his only real rival for the Republican presidential nomination.
Whereas DeSantis has taken a cloistered strategy, Trump has been maximizing his interactions with voters and the press as he begins to go to early voting states — an effort that aides say is a component of a bigger push to distinction Trump’s strengths with DeSantis’ perceived weaknesses.
Throughout his first actual day of campaigning in late January, Trump stopped by a beloved fried hen and burger joint in West Columbia, South Carolina. He posed for images with patrons and ordered a chocolate-dipped ice cream.
One of many staff behind the counter supplied Trump an impromptu prayer, and the second went viral. After seeing the extraordinary response, the marketing campaign leaned in.
It rapidly deliberate a visit to East Palestine, Ohio, to fulfill with residents and native officers affected by a toxic train derailment. Earlier than leaving, Trump stopped at a neighborhood McDonald’s, the place he signed autographs, handed out pink “Make America Nice Once more” caps and ordered meals for his workers and first responders.
“I do know this menu higher than you do,” he advised the smiling cashier.
In Iowa on Monday, Trump directed his motorcade to make a fast cease on the Machine Shed Restaurant, a longtime fixture within the japanese metropolis of Davenport.
“So, how’s the meals right here?” he boomed as he strolled in, surprising patrons and leaving the workers laughing in delight.
Trump shook palms, slapped backs and posed for photos with anybody who needed one.
Whereas such scenes have been hardly frequent throughout Trump’s first two campaigns, the previous president is taking a brand new strategy as he wages his third presidential bid. The skilled host and profession glad-hander relishes private interactions with supporters, and even longtime critics acknowledge his charisma in one-on-one interactions.
Such stops give voters “a method to see the president in a unique mild,” stated Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung.
“Normally they see him on digicam or at a rally or in an interview. They don’t essentially get to see him up shut,” he stated. “And that is one method to bridge that hole. And it’s additionally one method to make this marketing campaign extra distinct.”
Certainly, Trump’s private strategy stands as a transparent distinction to DeSantis, who is thought for being far more guarded — particularly when the media is current.
After two presidential campaigns and 4 years within the White Home, Trump is extraordinarily effectively practiced at taking robust questions from the nationwide press. And his group has been working to make him extra accessible to reporters.
He has been inviting small teams to journey aboard his marketing campaign aircraft. Throughout journeys to South Carolina and Iowa, he took questions from native press.
Trump did the identical with voters after delivering a protracted speech Monday in Iowa, answering a number of questions from a fortunate few of the 1000’s who packed right into a downtown Davenport theater. Aides famous that Trump’s crowd eclipsed DeSantis’, and Trump acknowledged, tongue in cheek, that it was “harmful” to ask unscripted questions after a well-received speech.
He did it anyway for 20 minutes.
DeSantis’ allies strongly disagree with the rising notion that he’s insulated and never sufficiently dedicated to constructing private relationships with voters and stakeholders in key states.
They notice that he’s not a presidential candidate. Ought to he resolve to enter the competition — which he’s extensively anticipated to do after his state legislature adjourns in Could — he’ll probably undertake a marketing campaign technique just like the one which took him to all of Florida’s 67 counties earlier than his November reelection. Over that point, they level out, he repeatedly made unscripted appearances at eating places, bars and highschool sporting occasions.
When DeSantis met with New York Metropolis legislation enforcement officers final month, for instance, he stopped by a Staten Island bagel store.
One main distinction between DeSantis and Trump is that Trump has welcomed press protection of his unscripted moments.
Whereas Trump usually bashes the media at his raucous rallies, he’s additionally an avid shopper of the information and craves the eye. DeSantis, against this, employs a constant disdain for the mainstream press in public and in personal.
It is a lot the identical with fellow Republican governors and enterprise leaders. DeSantis sees no use in creating relationships with Republican friends in different states, main companies or the mainstream media — apart from a couple of allies within the conservative press.
The Florida governor’s relationship with the media is strained to say the least.
He repeatedly schedules press conferences however usually holds them exterior main media markets with just a few hours’ discover, making it just about unattainable for the journalists who finest know him and his insurance policies to get there in time to ask robust questions. Normally, he packs such occasions with supporters.
On Thursday, for instance, he hosted a information convention at a restaurant an hour away from Tampa.
He obtained solely a handful of questions, all of which appeared designed for him to spotlight his personal positions. One journalist requested him concerning the want for infants to get the “jab,” a derisive time period conservatives use to explain the COVID-19 vaccine.
Scott Jennings, a Republican political analyst, stated DeSantis’ contempt for the media is central to the Florida governor’s model. And his cautious strategy might assist venture a extra skilled operation in distinction to Trump’s freewheeling type.
Nonetheless, Jennings stated, DeSantis’ strategy is “inherently dangerous.”
“No one’s ever actually executed it earlier than,” he stated. “However my intuition is Republicans are going to find it irresistible.”
Hogan Gidley, a former Trump aide and veteran of presidential politics, stated it’s essential for presidential candidates to hone their insurance policies and performances with unscripted moments in key states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina earlier than an official announcement.
“A big a part of that features making private connections with activists, with grassroots leaders, with elected officers — all those who might be liable for the blocking and tackling wanted to win a main in these states,” Gidley stated. “Anybody who ignores that does so at their very own political peril.”
___ Related Press author Anthony Izaguirre contributed to this report from Tallahassee, Florida.