DeSantis promises to "hit back" against Trump in Iowa campaign kickoff

West Des Moines, Iowa - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis kicked off his 2024 presidential campaign tour in Iowa on Tuesday by pitching himself as the best alternative to Donald Trump.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis kicked off his 2024 presidential campaign tour in Iowa on Tuesday.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis kicked off his 2024 presidential campaign tour in Iowa on Tuesday.  © REUTERS

Though he did not name the ex-president directly during his speech, DeSantis still evoked Trump, attempting to create both parallels and contrasts.

America needs an "energetic" president capable of serving two terms, he said, a reference to the fact that Trump is constitutionally limited to one more four-year stint in office.

"Leadership is not about entertainment," DeSantis told Iowans. "It's about results."

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But the 44-year-old, who officially launched his campaign last week, also tried to ingratiate himself with Trump's voter base, most obviously with a campaign slogan – "Our great American comeback" – that strongly echoed Trump's "Make America great again" mantra.

In an appeal to religious voters previously won over by Trump, the Florida governor started his White House bid at the evangelical Eternity Church in Clive, Iowa under a giant portrait of Jesus Christ.

DeSantis picks up Trump talking points

DeSantis pitched evangelicals with talking points largely similar to Trump's.
DeSantis pitched evangelicals with talking points largely similar to Trump's.  © REUTERS

DeSantis also spoke at length on themes dear to the president's fans, including denouncing immigration as out of control, accusing the media of spreading lies, and painting a dystopian picture of life under Democratic President Joe Biden, who he claimed has allowed criminals "to roam in the streets."

Each talking point received a standing ovation.

"American decline is not inevitable. It is a choice. And we must choose a new direction for our country. We must choose a path that will lead to a revival of American greatness," he said.

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In his speech, DeSantis refrained from explicitly criticizing Trump and possibly offending a large voter base that could swing away from the recently indicted Republican frontrunner. Afterward, though, he struck a different tone when speaking to the media, more in keeping with last week's direct attacks.

"I'm going to hit back," DeSantis said.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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