As the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses draw near, Republican presidential candidates not named Donald Trump are clamoring for an opportunity to separate themselves from the pack and establish themselves as a viable alternative to the former president.
For his part, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has already racked up some important endorsements and has spent significant time in the state — including visits to all 99 of its counties. The feat has been dubbed “the Full Grassley” in reference to the longstanding tradition of U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) traveling to each county at least once a year.
During a campaign stop in Newton, DeSantis delivered a campaign promise to voters in the state. Building on his prior vows to slash the number of D.C.-based bureaucracies, he said that he would relocate the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s headquarters to Iowa, the economy of which has historically relied heavily on farming.
“You guys will have first dibs on the Department of Agriculture,” the Florida governor said. “We’ll send it to Iowa and you guys can take care of it.”
He went on to share his opinion that government agencies would operate more efficiently if they were operated by those with relevant expertise rather than a centralized staff located in the nation’s capital.
“A number of people said that they don’t like USDA Washington bureaucrats interfering with how people are farming and they would much rather have this agency be run with people from their own communities,” DeSantis added.
The 99-county recap Iowans are watching this morning from @KCCINews:
• @bobvanderplaats: I'm full-fledged behind DeSantis
• @KimReynoldsIA: I truly believe that Ron can win
• IA voter: Reynolds’ endorsement sold me
• DeSantis says he’ll move USDA HQ to Iowa pic.twitter.com/tFEK0Kg3qy
— Gloria Taylor (@Glo_Tay) December 3, 2023
While DeSantis might be positioning himself for a relatively strong finish in the Hawkeye State, there is no indication that his performance will make a significant dent in Trump’s overwhelming popularity among Iowa Republicans and GOP primary voters nationwide.
The most recent RealClearPolitics average shows that Trump maintains a seemingly insurmountable 62% support among Republican voters nationally with DeSantis and the rest of the primary field left to divide up the remaining 38%.
While Trump’s lead in Iowa is smaller, it still stands at 47% with DeSantis polling nearly 30 points lower.
Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats, one of the most prominent Iowans to endorse DeSantis, recently emphasized the high stakes of the upcoming caucuses.
“If one of these others rises up to be the alternative to Trump, and they win the Iowa caucuses, I think now America is going to see game on — and they’re going to have to make a choice of who do they want as their nominee.”