DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has set a high bar for former President Donald Trump in Monday night’s caucus as she roots for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to pull off a shocker.
“I think it’s going to be bad for President Trump if he doesn’t come in over 50 [%] so — that you know he’s not meeting the expectations,” Reynolds told Fox News Monday morning.
Trump, 77, is widely expected to blow away his competition in Iowa after the Des Moines Register’s caucus eve poll showed him with a 28-percentage-point lead over former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
In the modern era (since 1972), no Republican non-president has won a contested caucus by more than 12.8 percentage points.
“If Ron can get close to that, and President Trump is below 50[%], I think he’s in the game,” Reynolds added. “I think he’s in the best position to meet expectations.”
Reynolds, 64, endorsed DeSantis in November, breaking with a longstanding tradition in which Iowa governors maintain a studied neutrality in the caucus
The current governor’s predecessor, Terry Branstad, issued a scathing un-endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz — the eventual caucus winner — in 2016.
Reynolds’ pick of DeSantis enraged Trump, who has repeatedly attacked her in the two months since her announcement.
“She went from the most popular governor in the United States in two weeks to the least popular governor,” Trump told supporters during a rally in Indianola Sunday. “But I just thought it was very disloyal.”
Despite polls showing him up big on DeSantis and Haley, the former president has warned his supporters against complacency, telling them to “think we’re about one point down because that way you’re going to vote.”
DeSantis, who has stepped up his criticism of Trump in the final days before the caucus, fired back at the former president Sunday.
“You can be the most worthless Republican in America, but if you kiss the ring, he’ll say you’re wonderful,” the Floridian vented during an event in Ankeny Sunday. “You can be the strongest, most dynamic, successful Republican … but if you don’t kiss that ring, he’ll try to trash you.”
DeSantis has invested heavily in a strong Iowa showing, with his campaign and its allies pouring millions of dollars into the race.
However, a series of recent polls has shown Haley threatening to overtake him for second place.
Trump, who has needled both Haley and DeSantis aggressively over recent weeks, has turned his rhetorical fire on biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — apparently rankled by t-shirts bearing the phrase “Save Trump, Vote Vivek” that appeared over the weekend.
“Vivek started his campaign as a great supporter, ‘the best President in generations,’ etc. Unfortunately, now all he does is disguise his support in the form of deceitful campaign tricks. Very sly, but a vote for Vivek is a vote for the ‘other side’ — don’t get duped by this,” Trump wrote on Truth Social Saturday.
“Don’t waste your vote! Vivek is not MAGA. The Biden Indictments against his Political Opponent will never be allowed in this Country, they are already beginning to fall! MAGA!!!”
In response, Ramaswamy struck a restrained tone.
“It’s an unfortunate move by his campaign advisors [sic], I don’t think friendly fire is helpful. Donald Trump was the greatest President of the 21st century, and I’m not going to criticize him in response to this late attack,” the 38-year-old posted on X.
After the Iowa caucus, the GOP nominating contest heads to New Hampshire for the Granite State’s Jan. 23 primary.