Former president Donald Trump returns to the election campaign on Thursday as the main competitor for GOP Presidential nominee Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is on the state ballot for the first time as an official candidate.

Trump is back Iowa nearly three weeks after canceling his last event, a large rally near Des Moines, because of a tornado warning, reluctantly ceding the spotlight to DeSantis as the governor crisscrossed the state ahead of his campaign.

Trump, who has spent the past few weeks attacking DeSantis on social media and mocking his commencement announcement, has a series of events planned around Des Moines, followed by a town hall telecast on Fox News Thursday night.

DeSantis is coming off a two-day series of stops around Iowa leading up to next year’s GOP presidential primary. It will be up for early voting on Thursday New Hampshirewith stops planned in Laconia, Rochester, Salem and Manchester before spending his campaign Friday in South Carolina, another state at the top of the presidential election calendar.

The duels between Trump and DeSantis come as each presents himself as a stronger fighter for conservative policies.

While DeSantis largely avoided responding to Trump’s constant attacks before he announced his presidential bid, the Iowa governor vowed this week that he would “fight back.” He accused Trump of abandoning his “America First” immigration principles and of “moving to the left” on the issue.

Trump and his allies have continued to attack DeSantis on social media, with the former president sharing polls showing him a huge favorite in the GOP primary while criticizing DeSantis’ handling of the pandemic. In recent days, Trump has also vowed to end the constitutional right to citizenship for children of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born in the United States, something he has called for since his first campaign for the White House in 2015 but failed to do so during his first term as president .

Trump, after appearing Wednesday night at a GOP legislative dinner in Des Moines, is scheduled to appear Thursday morning at one of the conservative club’s bimonthly breakfasts at a restaurant in Urbandale. The Westside Conservative Breakfast events are a longtime venue for Republican candidates for elected office at all levels, including presidential candidates.

Later, the former president is expected to dine with faith leaders, visit with activists and supporters, and then participate in a town hall with Sean Hannity, taped late in the afternoon in the Des Moines suburb of Clive. The town hall will air at 9pm Thursday on Fox News.

DeSantis’ New Hampshire stop is planned to be similar to his Iowa swing, with a series of appearances across the state and one event billed as a “fireside chat” with his wife, Casey DeSantis.

As Trump and DeSantis pitch to GOP voters, the Republican presidential field is getting even more crowded.

Ex-Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie is expected to start his Republican presidential campaign on June 6 in New Hampshire. Both Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgom are expected to announce their campaigns later in the day.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and biotech entrepreneur and anti-awakening activist Vivek Ramaswamy are among the other candidates already in the race.


Price reports from New York and Beaumont reports from Urbandale, Iowa.

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