DES MOINES, Iowa — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis enters the first campaign crucible of the 2024 Republican presidential primary on Friday, with Donald Trump looming just over his shoulder.

Trump and DeSantis, first and second in the national polls of the Republican presidential primary race, will almost cross paths in Davenport, on the Mississippi riverfront: DeSantis in his first trip to the nation’s first caucus state as a potential candidate member on Friday , and Trump, on Monday, in his first visit since announcing his campaign last year.

The split screen of the two heavyweights signals the unofficial start of the Iowa caucuses.

“It’s in full force now,” McNulty said of what the DeSantis and Trump events, both in his county, signal for Iowa’s primary season.

“People are really excited and full of energy,” he added. “And most of the people I spoke to go to both events. They’re not picking and choosing.»

While the former president faces a test of whether his dominance of the GOP has waned to the point where he is truly vulnerable, the stakes are inherently higher for DeSantis. He is an intriguing but as yet unfamiliar figure here, and the Trump team is signaling a desire to push DeSantis on issues where his record puts him in front of Republican voters in the state.

“This is where candidates start to get out of their comfort zone and voters get a sense of whether the candidates are willing to do that,” said Jason Miller, a longtime Trump adviser. «I would imagine that DeSantis’ efforts to reduce ethanol, reduce Medicare, reduce Social Security, and his pro-interventionist stances on the world stage are likely to draw a lot of attention from the reporters covering him on Friday.»

As a congressman, DeSantis cast a series of votes that would have reduced or ended federal aid programs for farmers. Those might prove relevant in a state covered in farmland. In 2018, for example, he was one of 34 House members who voted for a failed amendment to a farm bill that would have phased out federal subsidies on crop insurance premiums, a major source of support for many Iowa farmers — more than a decade.

A DeSantis spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the amendment or DeSantis’ goals for his Iowa trip.

DeSantis, who is also scheduled to make an appearance in Des Moines on Friday, has not yet said whether he will run for president. He has largely avoided responding to increasingly frequent public criticism of Trump, which includes a mix of derisive nicknames and attacks on substantive political issues. But if the governor hopes to win the Iowa caucuses and the Republican nomination, he’ll have to explain his position to Iowa’s famously scrupulous voters.

Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Iowa, said he watches during speeches by DeSantis and Trump to see how the crowd reacts to their key messages and whether they are offering a «vision for the future» or «a rehash of the past.» ”

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