Trump looms large in the Iowa state fair, but many GOP voters are still weighing their caucus options.


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Donald Trump’s private jet made over Iowa State Fair Before his visit last weekend, he was more than a gesture to the hundreds of supporters — and a few competing candidates — on the ground. It was a reminder that the four-time indicted former president cast a shadow over the Boeing 757 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

This is where the agreement is made trump It seems to end. With less than five months before Iowans cast their first ballots in the GOP contest, conversations with more than 40 Republicans at the then-honored presidential campaign rites indicate the party is far from united in many other ways.

Until the cold of winter hits, most voters say they keep an open mind, honoring the state’s tradition of vetting all candidates. However, many GOP voters say they can’t help but weigh their intense feelings for Trump as they consider their options.

In keeping with the display of life-size cows carved from butter, around the stands selling Twinkies and deep-fried Oreos and throughout this annual tribute to Midwestern farming, some Republicans planning to attend the Jan. 15 caucuses have said they would support Trump even if he were a convicted criminal. Others insist it is time to focus on the figure who has reshaped their party.

Many are conflicted, eager to turn the page but not disowning the former president. They like what he’s done in office and support his policy priorities—yet they worry that what they largely see as political oppression could derail him as Republican nominee and president.

“President Trump — he’s got a lot of distractions, and you know his style in bed isn’t good,” said Des Moines Republican Frank Miller, who got excited about the candidates he heard about at a barbecue station near the animal pens.

“There are a lot of people in this country who think this is more important than politics,” added Miller, who works for an insurance company and is hesitant about who to back him up. “I am not one of those.”

Loyalty to Trump runs deep in Iowa, a state he has carried comfortably twice and where he is the frontrunner in early caucus polls for Republicans. However, it’s clear from talking to voters that already complex assessments of Trump can shift through months of televised debates, relentless ads, and more intense campaigning — not to mention the court proceedings in A series of criminal indictments He faces from New York to Florida.

GOP voters in this predominantly white, rural state are interested.

The only circumstances that would prevent Connie Lamberti from again endorsing Trump at the caucuses are his withdrawal or a physical illness that renders him unable to run.

Not on her list: conviction in any of four criminal indictments Trump faces. Lamberti believes they are all politically motivated.

said the 70-year-old retired Communications Officer from Ankeny as he attended Candidate interview series Led by Iowa. Kim Reynolds. “I think it is deliberate on the part of his opponents.”

Trump’s brief hiatus at the fair on Aug. 12 only fueled his fame. Ham waved as he ran through a crowd of fans and the media. Members of the Florida House of Representatives who supported him filed a shot in Florida. Ron DeSantisthe 2024 competitor was touring the show with his family.

It was a sign of Trump remaining in power with the Republicans, and of the headwinds the two rival candidates face, that even Iowans open to Trump’s alternatives are waiting to see them prove themselves.

But a recent New York Times/Siena College poll in Iowa shows that candidates other than Trump have room to grow. Nearly half of likely Republican voters who support Trump say they are open to other candidates, while only 3 in 10 who don’t pick Trump say they would consider supporting him.

Many of the show’s goers were happy to identify qualities they liked in others.

Voters say DeSantis has a solid record of GOP priorities. Former Vice President Mike Pence He is a solid and respectable conservative man. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott Shows integrity in an optimistic manner. businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, whose rap of Eminem floored showrunners has a youthful appeal. and former ambassador to the United Nations and governor of South Carolina. Nikki Haley He has a common touch and global experience.

Trump will not be able to count on Republican Abby Sindt, a 37-year-old mental health nurse from the small town of Story City. She voted for Trump previously but was in the show in part to increase the size of Pence.

“The Republican Party has changed,” she said, looking for shade near a cattle pen. “And there are reasons. It is because Trump has become a distraction rather than a healthy distraction.”

However, even some voters considering the alternatives say they could end up backing Trump on caucus night.

Keith Hoxbergen grabbed Scott’s election signs from the Iowa GOP booth, but the 65-year-old factory worker from Bella says Trump and others are still options.

Hoksbergen sees Trump as imperfect but tested. He attributes concerns about Trump’s viability to what he sees as bias in the news media. “It’s just the negative things that everyone talks about,” he said. “I’m way over it.”

Wesley Rose, a corn and soybean farmer in the Mississippi River Valley, views the former president as a friend to agriculture. In his opinion, the president should be removed Joe Biden It obscures other concerns.

“There are some things he says that aren’t true, but I don’t like what’s going on with Biden right now,” said Rose, 53, of Clinton, adding, “time will tell” who will support him.

It wouldn’t be the first time that animosity toward Biden and the Democrats has caused Republican voters to swallow concerns about their own candidates. In the 2022 midterm electionsMost GOP voters who don’t consider themselves fans of Trump-backed Republican candidates have been motivated by opposition from Democrats.

Just as some Trump skeptics still open up to him, longtime hardliners like Bob Heckert said the weight of what he called unfair trials — not Trump’s alleged actions — made him highly damaging politically.

“I don’t think he can be elected,” said Heckert, a 72-year-old retired maintenance engineer who had previously supported Trump, after watching the butter cow. “There is a lot of argument against him, prejudice I think you might want to say, and I don’t think that if he was actually elected he could accomplish anything.”

Trump’s actions after his defeat in 2020 were too much for some voters to handle.

Jan. 6 was absolutely awful,” said Bob Stefani, a 61-year-old Council Bluffs salesperson and former Trump supporter, when his family was buying ice cream. The 2021 rebellion by a mob of Trump supporters “smeared everything He is positive, and there were a lot of positive things in his presidency.”

Those interviewed praised Trump’s record in office, and many pointed to his success in getting conservative Supreme Court justices who helped overturn the famous 1973 abortion case, Roe. v. Wade, last year.

Others cited his moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a goal long sought by evangelical Christians. His efforts to build a wall along the US border with Mexico, even if he did not complete it, are seen by many as evidence of Trump’s commitment to stopping illegal immigration.

But Trump’s divisiveness is frequently cited, including by some who have praised his record. The need to heal is reason enough for some to move on.

“I don’t think he represents values ​​that people can get behind personally,” said Barbara Collins, a 67-year-old financial advisor from Bellevue. “And I think his ship has passed.”

While Samona Yentes’ friends were waiting for her at the Dairy Bar, Yentes hesitated.

Yes, she admitted, Trump’s time has probably come and gone. But the former head of an anti-abortion group in Iowa quickly turned around, expressing surprise that Trump was still “going out and fighting the fight.”

“That’s the part of me, it’s kind of unstoppable,” she said.

So where does that leave her heading into the fall campaign?

She said, “I didn’t land.” “And I have five months to think about it.”

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