On Sept. 9, state rivals in the Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones clashed for home state distinction, but in the stands and tailgates of Ames, Republican nominees clashed for the Iowa Caucus.
With the Iowa Caucus date set for Jan. 15, 2024, Republican presidential candidates used the spectacle of the state rivalry to promote their individual campaigns, with notable appearances from former president Donald Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
Donald Trump began his day in Iowa with an appearance outside of a fraternity house, throwing autographed footballs to supporters and fans gathered outside.
Donald Trump was quoted by Right Side Broadcasting Network, a right-wing media site which focuses its coverage on Donald Trump, as saying “I guess the youth likes Trump” during the fraternity event.
Margo Martin, deputy director of communications for Donald Trump, recorded the moment the former president entered Jack Trice stadium to a mob of supporters and posted the video to the social media site X, formerly named Twitter, as part of the day’s events. Surrounding him, chants of “USA” can be heard as Trump shuffles through the concourse.
As Trump made his way to his box seats, Ron DeSantis arrived in the stands alongside Iowa governor Kim Reynolds after spending the early day visiting tailgates outside. While the Iowa governor has not specifically endorsed any Republican nominee, NBC news reported in July that DeSantis was considering Kim Reynolds as a potential Vice President pick.
Throughout the game and pregame tailgate, constant attention from the crowd was thrown towards the candidates.
High above, a banner reading “Where’s Melania?” flew over the crowd, referencing the former first lady’s ongoing absence from the campaign trail. Despite the initial warm entrance, Trump also saw disapproval from some in the crowd with photos such as one posted by @lisa_liberal on X showing a mix of middle fingers and thumbs ups from the crowd towards Trump in his private box for the game.
Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a current U.S. house representative from Iowa, posted a photo from her meeting with DeSantis during the game on the social media platform X, seemingly unaware of the man in a cyclones jersey flipping off the camera behind her and DeSantis.
One such photo that circulated on social media, posted by X user @SpenceRogers, appears to show the former president returning the middle finger favor to the onlooking crowds below.
Although the Iowa caucus isn’t scheduled until January, polling has been decisively in favor of Trump in the Midwest state. Iowa’s polling reflects other national level polls, with the latest polls indicating Trump as having a 55% share of the Republican primaries while DeSantis only occupies a 14% favor.
While Republicans garnered attention for their campaigns in the crowd, there was also a college football game played.
With a final of 20-13, Iowa defeated Iowa State. Although the Hawkeyes led by a score of 20-3 heading into the fourth quarter, they held off a late Cyclones comeback attempt to keep the final score close. The Cyclones received their first loss of the year while the Hawkeyes remained undefeated.