Former President Donald Trump cruised into the Iowa State Fair Saturday as the established front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, seeking to draw attention away from his competitors and lock down support ahead of the 2024 caucuses.
The Register was on the ground with Trump while he visited. Here’s what happened during his latest trip to the Hawkeye State.
11:34 a.m. Trump Force One buzzes Iowa State Fair
Trump’s private jet, called “Trump Force One,” buzzed over the fairgrounds as Texas businessman Ryan Binkley spoke at the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flipped pork at the Iowa Pork Producers tent, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley toured the animal barns and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy stopped for ice cream with Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig.
A group of Trump supporters near the pork tent let out cheers as the plane flew overhead.
DeSantis previously spoke at Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Fair-Side Chat, drawing a big crowd and a couple of protesters who interrupted the event with whistles and cowbells before they were escorted away. Afterward, he and his wife and their three children traveled through the fairgrounds, taking selfies and shaking hands.
11:45 a.m. Trump’s plane touches down in Des Moines
Trump’s plane touched down at the Des Moines International Airport, and Trump emerged in a blue suit with no tie. Over the roaring jet engine, Trump waved to those assembled and said “See you at the fair” to reporters before getting into his vehicle and departing in the motorcade.
Joining Trump on board were members of the Florida congressional delegation who have endorsed him, including U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Byron Donalds; campaign advisers Susie Wiles and Jason Miller; and body man Walt Nauta, who is co-charged with Trump in the ongoing Miami case involving alleged mishandling of classified documents. Several of the representatives and Trump held red Make America Great Again hats.
Trump previously told the Des Moines Register he planned to travel with a lineup of Florida Republicans who endorsed his candidacy over DeSantis’ — a not-so-subtle implication that Floridians who know both men have chosen Trump. But DeSantis pushed back, saying he would bring along a group of his Iowa endorsers, who will have a bigger say in the first-in-the-nation caucus process.
A much smaller plane trailing a “Be likeable Ron!” banner above the fairgrounds could be seen from the tarmac, another apparent dig at DeSantis.
11:54 a.m. Trump, DeSantis supporters offer dueling chants
DeSantis flipped pork with Reynolds and two members of Iowa’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Zach Nunn and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, as Trump supporters a few steps away began chanting “We love Trump!” Soon after, the DeSantis contingent began a “USA! USA!” chant.
12:25 p.m. Trump arrives at the Iowa Pork Producers tent
A mob of supporters and fair attendees awaited Trump as he arrived at the Iowa Pork Producers tent shortly after arriving at the fair. He slowly made his way through the crowd, shaking hands, greeting workers and serving pork.
He moved into the fenced-off grill station at the front of the pork tent, continuing to shake hands. He used a black Sharpie to sign a canvas handed to him by one supporter.
Many of the attendees crowded around the other side of the fence, covering most of the street. Many donned traditional red MAGA hats as well as green ones declaring Team Trump “back-to-back Iowa champs” in 2016 and 2020. Trump came in second place in the 2016 Iowa caucuses but went on to carry Iowa in the 2016 and 2020 general elections.
One woman told the Des Moines Register she had been waiting outside the tent for about an hour.
12:31 p.m. Will Trump go to the first debate?
The Des Moines Register asked Trump whether he planned to attend the first Republican National Committee debate in Milwaukee later this month. He has so far declined to say whether he will attend.
“It’ll be interesting, won’t it?” Trump answered. “Do you think I should?”
12:35 p.m. ‘We need you back, Trump!’
Trump moved around the grills where his Republican rivals have been flipping pork chops all week. He didn’t partake, instead waving to the crowd and continuing to shake hands.
“We need you back, Trump!” one man yelled.
Cheers emanated frequently from the crowd.
12:49 p.m. Trump visits baby goats
Trump entered the Animal Learning Center building to another throng of supporters. Among those waiting for him were two young women holding baby goats.
One mother had her young son reach his hand through the gap of a sign separating them from the president, hoping to shake the former president’s hand, but he was unsuccessful.
12:52 p.m. Trump’s Florida supporters play games
Members of Trump’s Florida contingent of endorsers played rounds of Skee-Ball behind the Steer N’ Stein before Trump arrived, chatting with Trump campaign staffers and Iowans. Gaetz, the Florida congressman, posed for selfies and signed autographs.
12:55 p.m. Trump brags about his crowd size
Trump turned to reporters as he moved through the building to brag about the crowd size at the fair.
“We love breaking records,” he said.
The Register asked him whether he had a message for DeSantis, who also was at the fair.
“He had a very small crowd,” Trump remarked. “Only had a few people show up.”
The crowd for DeSantis’ Fair-Side Chat with Reynolds was standing room only.
12:58 p.m. Trump is asked if he intended to overturn election
As Trump was winding through the State Fair with a huge crowd surrounding him, a reporter asked him, “Did you intend to overturn the 2020 election?”
Trump responded, “You know the answer.” Then he turned away.
1:11 p.m. Crowds spill out of Steer N’ Stein as Trump speaks to fairgoers
Supporters who had mobbed the Steer N’ Stein restaurant waited for Trump to arrive. “We love Trump,” they chanted.
The restaurant was holding a special “MAGA Deal”: a double cheeseburger, chili fries and drink for $24.
Hundreds of people lined up outside the Steer N’ Stein, hoping to catch a glimpse of Trump as he spoke inside. They gathered in front of the building, spilling out across the Grand Concourse. And they gathered behind and around the building as well.
Even though Trump was not visible from most vantage points, his voice echoed out across the crowd in front of the building.
1:18 p.m. Trump takes the stage at Steer N Stein
Trump took the stage at the Steer N’ Stein, thanking supporters. He brought up each of the members of Congress who traveled with him and have endorsed him, touting his prior victories in Iowa and support across the country.
1:32 p.m. Trump says farewell to the crowd as he prepares to depart
Trump emerged from Steer N’ Stein to a roaring crowd. A few attendees held up DeSantis 2024 signs, as others held MAGA flags and wore hats, cheering for him.
He waved to the crowd and stepped into his car as the motorcade left the fairgrounds.
2:14 p.m. Iowa volunteers get photos with Trump at airport
Trump joined the Florida congressional delegation on the airport tarmac, posing for photos with Iowa “super volunteers” who arrived at the airport in a separate bus.
Miller, the campaign senior adviser, told the Register they had been selected based on how much work they had put in on the ground, including knocking on doors and getting Iowans committed to caucus for Trump.
“These are the grinders,” Miller said.
The volunteers approached by the Register declined to be interviewed.
2:24 p.m. Trump answers questions on legal battles, relationship with Iowa governor
Trump took questions from reporters, including several related to his three ongoing legal battles and an expected fourth one in Georgia. Asked if he would take a plea deal, Trump said no.
“We don’t take plea deals,” Trump said. “We did nothing wrong. … That’s a wise-guy question.”
Asked by the Register whether Trump had spoken recently with Reynolds after criticizing her for staying neutral in the caucuses, he continued to take credit for her electoral success, noting that he has previously attended rallies with her.
Trump was the only Republican candidate to visit the State Fair without sitting down for a Fair-Side Chat with Reynolds; she did not appear with him during his visit Saturday.
“I like her very much,” he said. “That’s why I came to do rallies with her.”
2:30 p.m. Trump boards jet
Trump boarded his jet as the Iowa volunteers waved from behind a fence on the tarmac.
2:45 p.m. ‘Trump Force One’ takes off
Trump’s private jet was wheels up.
Brianne Pfannenstiel is the chief politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at @brianneDMR.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Trump replies to question on if he tried to overturn 2020 election