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“Trump vs DeSantis: Are Iowa’s Expectations too Ambitious?

The 2020 presidential election is just over three months away, and the race is heating up. Iowa is traditionally a bellwether of the nation’s political mood, so it’s no surprise that both President Donald Trump and his likely Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, are ramping up their direct efforts here. But have expectations become too high for the Trump and DeSantis campaigns in Iowa? The Iowa caucuses will be closely watched, no matter who the Democratic and Republican candidates are. No Republican Presidential primary voter since 1992 has failed to win the state, and the party’s caucus-goers tend to back the eventual nominee. However, the telling signs from recent polls have been far from positive. Trump lags behind Biden by 6 percentage points according to the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls. This could be a sign of Iowa’s heightened disapproval of the President’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and the economy. Trump appears to have peaked in the state earlier this month, polling relatively close to Biden, whereas the most recent figures show a dramatic swing towards Biden. For Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, expectations have been high since he took office in 2018 and quickly acquired rock-star status with his base by passing hardline conservative reforms. However, despite the many visits and campaign events organised in Iowa, initial polling has showed that the Governor only has a slim lead against his Democratic challenger, Representative Charlie Crist. Recent attempts to connect with Iowa’s deeply religious and conservative voters may be partly at fault. While speaking at a social conservative event, the campaign emphasised religious liberty issues like abortion – a messaging strategy that could have alienated more moderate Iowans. In general, DeSantis’ harder line on social issues has had little tangible effect among Iowans so far. In any case, the key for both Trump and DeSantis appears to be connecting with the state’s predominantly independent voters, who will ultimately shape the final outcome in November. Trump and his team have yet to devise a messaging strategy that resonates with this critical constituency, while DeSantis must adjust his approach if he wants to ensure victory. With November fast approaching, the question remains whether Trump and DeSantis have set expectations too high in Iowa. As things stand, both candidates have their work cut out for them if they are to make significant inroads with Iowans and, ultimately, win the election.