URBANDALE, Iowa — Hours before former President Donald Trump held a rally in Fort Dodge, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his high-power endorser Gov. Kim Reynolds opened a new campaign office for DeSantis in the Des Moines metro.
“If you like what we’ve done here in Iowa, then you are going to love what Ron DeSantis will do for this country,” Reynolds promised the crowd.
Dozens of bundled-up Iowans — including some lawmakers, lobbyists and activists — packed into DeSantis’ Urbandale campaign office on for the early morning event, sipping coffee and snacking on donuts while the two governors spoke.
The Urbandale office is the second Iowa headquarters for the DeSantis campaign, joining an office in Des Moines. The campaign has surged its resources to the state in the final weeks before the Jan. 15 Iowa Caucus.
With Reynolds’ endorsement and a busy schedule of campaign stops across the state, DeSantis pledged to keep “working hard” to win supporters in Iowa. The most recent Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll showed DeSantis tied for second with former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, with 16% of likely Republican caucusgoers naming him as their first choice.
Trump, who also campaigned in Iowa on Saturday, holds a commanding lead with 43% support.
When asked how he plans to close that gap, DeSantis said many Iowans “haven’t made firm decisions yet.”
According to the latest Iowa Poll, 54% percent of likely Republican caucusgoers have a first choice for president and say they could still be persuaded to support a different candidate. But Trump supporters are more likely to be locked in: Just 37% say they could still be persuaded to pick another candidate.
“Every piece of data shows that you’ve got to be able to get a broad swath of conservative voters to have any chance to compete with Donald Trump, and I’m the only candidate that has the opportunity to do that,” DeSantis said. “I think we’ll show that, of course, here in Iowa, which will be good.”
Reynolds echoed DeSantis’ optimism, telling reporters that “Iowa breaks late.”
“I’m in this race because I focused on the candidate that I know could win, and that’s Ron DeSantis,” she said. “The math is there. The ground game is there. The engagement, the excitement, the policy, the record.”
DeSantis and Reynolds criticized Trump for skipping many of Iowa’s candidate forums, including Friday night’s event with the Family Leader.
“That’s the expectation of Iowans … they expect him to do the debate, they expect him to show up,” Reynolds said. “They expect him to earn their votes, and he’s just not doing it.”
More: Is Trump wrong to skip the presidential debates? What GOP caucusgoers told our Iowa Poll
The DeSantis-aligned Political Action Committee, Never Back Down, has taken the lead on campaigning for the Florida governor in Iowa. Between Never Back Down and the campaign, DeSantis has six offices and nearly 50 paid staff members in Iowa.
DeSantis has visited almost all of Iowa’s 99 counties. A map of Iowa, with counties crossed off by colorful sticky notes, hung on the wall of the Urbandale office.
Saturday’s office opening comes in the middle of a packed campaign weekend for DeSantis and first lady Casey DeSantis. DeSantis spoke Friday night at the Family Leader’s Thanksgiving Forum, and the DeSantises will give the keynote address at an anti-abortion event Saturday evening.
Katie Akin is a politics reporter for the Register. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @katie_akin.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Ron DeSantis, Kim Reynolds open campaign office, criticize Donald Trump