Former President Donald Trump returns to Iowa Saturday for his first visit to the state after losing the presidential election in November.
He can expect a warm welcome: More Iowans feel more favorable toward Trump than they ever have, according to the latest Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Overall, 53% hold favorable feelings toward Trump, and it’s even higher among his fellow Republicans, with 91% feeling favorable toward him.
Hours before the rally began, thousands of supporters and merchants selling Trump paraphernalia lined up at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
Trump supports from near and far gather at Iowa State Fairgrounds
Among the revelers was T. Trump, a Vietnamese immigrant who traveled with other Vietnamese immigrants from California. T. Trump and others said they legally changed their last name to Trump out of respect for the “king.”
“When you have a king that really works hard … the people take over his name,” T. Trump, 55 and wearing an American-flag themed cowboy hat, said. “Wherever Trump goes. We came here for freedom. We don’t want to lose this country. You were born free, you want to live free, you want to die free.”
Diana Johnson, 66, and Lori Ediger, 58 — sisters from Nebraska — were also in line Saturday. They arrived at the fairgrounds at 5:30 a.m.
Ediger was so excited, she couldn’t sleep.
“This guy’s a man of his word,” Ediger said. “He does what he says he’s going to do.”
Both were decked out in American Flag-themed clothing and Trump 2024 attire.
“Biden shouldn’t be in the White House,” Johnson said. “Period.”
Sheryl Robins, a retired nurse from Osceola, said she was glad to see the level of energy inside the fairgrounds. It was her first Trump rally since 2016.
She said she likes how Trump brought the background as a businessman to the White House and how he supported veterans and the economy. She said she’s been unhappy with how Biden has handled those issues.
“He ruined our economy, gave all that free money out, and look what he did to our military (and) the Afghans,” she said, adding that her husband is a Vietnam War veteran.
Robins said she thought Trump may hint at a 2024 run on Saturday, and she wanted to hear what changes he would make if he were to run again.
Inside the gate of the fairgrounds, David Lage, an evangelist from Ankeny, said he believes Trump will win again in 2024, and he plans to support him unless Trump endorses someone else.
“Trump’s for the country. He’s for America. He’s for Jesus,” he said.
Iowa, national Democrats criticize state Republicans for supporting Trump after Jan. 6 riot
Few people appeared to have gathered to protest Trump’s rally.
But Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn criticized Iowa Republicans for supporting Trump after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in January.
“Iowa Republicans have tied themselves to a man who attacked the foundations of our democracy throughout his time in office,” Wilburn said in a statement. “Just nine months ago, he incited a violent mob to attack his own Vice President and threaten the lives of lawmakers who were simply fulfilling their constitutional duty to certify our election.”
A slew of Iowa’s top Republican leaders will introduce Trump, including Gov. Kim Reynolds, U.S. Reps. Ashley Hinson and Mariannette Miller-Meeks and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who recently announced he would seek reelection in 2022.
National Democrats slammed Trump’s visit to Iowa. Ammar Moussa, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said Trump’s grip on the Republican party “is the anvil around their necks going into 2022.”
“The Republican Party remains beholden to a president who oversaw millions of lost jobs, hundreds of thousands of lives lost, and a violent assault on the Capitol and police officers,” Moussa said in the statement. “While Republicans have failed to lead, President Biden and Democrats continue to deliver for Iowans and Americans in ways Trump and Iowa Republicans are desperate to claim credit for.”
Trump was last in Iowa in October 2020 for rallies in Dubuque and Des Moines before the election. He won Iowa’s electoral votes with 53% of the vote as Republicans statewide picked up seats in the state legislature, held onto a U.S. Senate seat and picked up two U.S. House seats previously held by Democrats.