Cedar Rapids, Iowa — As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis completed a presidential campaign milestone Saturday afternoon byin Iowa, former President Donald Trump largely ignored his GOP opponent by taking aim at another rival, President Biden, as the two candidates held dueling rallies in the state.
In an event in Cedar Rapids, Trump focused his attacks on Mr. Biden, who he claims is "destroying American democracy." Trump appears to be seeking to frame the primary election as over before any votes have been cast, and focusing his attention on his 2020 rival.
The Trump campaign Saturday handed out new signs reading "Biden attacks Democracy" to rally-goers.
"Joe Biden is not the defender of American democracy. Joe Biden is the destroyer of American democracy," Trump said to a crowded gymnasium at Kirkwood Community College, portraying the 91 criminal charges he facesas politicized.
In a social media post on his Truth Social platform Wednesday, Trump made the unverified claim that Biden has "the Justice Department and others suing me wherever and whenever possible - WEAPONIZATION, it's called, and maybe that can make a difference."
Additionally, Trump also pledged to appoint a special prosecutor to "go after" Mr. Biden if Trump were to win the presidency in 2024.
Trump's attacks come as he was dealt two legal setbacks Friday. A federal judgeto dismiss the special counsel's 2020 election interference case against him, while a federal appeals court that Trump is not entitled to broad immunity from civil lawsuits related to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
The Biden re-election campaign pushed back on claims that Mr. Biden is going after Trump personally.
"Donald Trump's America in 2025 is one where the government is his personal weapon to lock up his political enemies. You don't have to take our word for it — Trump has admitted it himself," Biden campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa said. "After spending a week defending his plan to rip health care away from millions of Americans, this is his latest desperate attempt at distraction — the American people see right through it and it won't work."
The choice to focus on Mr. Biden instead of the ongoing Republican presidential primary was notable.
Trump mentioned DeSantis only a handful of times, saying DeSantis' campaign was falling "like a very seriously wounded bird," and repeating claims that he helped get DeSantis elected during his 2020 gubernatorial election.
Less than 100 miles away in the city of Newton, in Jasper County, it was a different story for DeSantis, who was completing a "full Grassley," a nickname for a tour of all of Iowa's 99 counties.
With just 44 days to go until the Iowa caucus, DeSantis showcased some new attacks on Trump, who hasover him in state and national polls.
DeSantis argued that completing his 99-county tour showed he considers himself "a servant, not a ruler. And that's how people that get elected should consider themselves."
DeSantis, his campaign and allies often argue that Trump feels "entitled" to the GOP nomination, given his comparatively lighter campaign schedule.
"I've been very frank with my view on President Trump's campaign," DeSantis said to the crowd at the Thunderdome, a wedding venue in Jasper County.
He added that Trump is "campaigning on things that he promised to do in  and didn't deliver." DeSantis cited Trump's promise to build a wall on the southern border, his call to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C., and his call to create a so-called "special counsel for Democrats."
DeSantis then turned to Trump's response during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, calling it "the wrong approach."
"Knowing what we know now, would you still do the same things that you would do? His answer to that question is yes," DeSantis said. "And to me that is disqualifying because this can never happen to our country ever again,"
DeSantis also criticized how, in his closing days as president, Trump gave a presidential commendation to Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
DeSantis also accused Trump of not supporting those who were criminally charged and convicted for their involvement in the.
"Did he help the people that got caught up in the Capitol stuff, that he told to go there? Did he give any support for them? No, but he did give a commendation to Dr. Fauci on his last day in office," DeSantis said.
DeSantis was introduced by evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds,have endorsed him. In his introduction, Vander Plaats said that the country needs a "God-fearing man," and argued for Trump supporters to back DeSantis instead.
"Voting for Ron DeSantis is not against Donald Trump, it is about the future of our country," he said.
Ron Murray, an Iowa voter from Jasper County, the 99th which DeSantis visited, seemed to agree with Vander Plaats pitch. Murray said he was considering his options going into the event, but left convinced he would vote for DeSantis.
"I believe that [DeSantis] is a God-fearing man, and I do not believe that Trump is," he said.
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