DAVENPORT, Iowa — Donald J. Trump has not visited Iowa since opening his latest White House bid nearly four months ago. He is set to return on Monday with both prosecutors and political competitors on his heels.
Mr. Trump’s event in Davenport, Iowa, is aimed in part at slowing any momentum from Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, his chief potential rival for the Republican nomination, who visited the same city just three days ago.
Mr. Trump remains the front-runner for the party’s nomination, a position that national polls show he has solidified in recent weeks.
Still, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has signaled that the former president is likely to face criminal charges over his role in the payment of hush money to a porn star. And he is facing new political vulnerabilities after the 2022 midterms became the third consecutive election cycle to end in disappointment for Republicans.
Mr. Trump has grown acutely aware of Mr. DeSantis’s rise in Republican circles, fixating on the Florida governor’s whereabouts, crowd sizes and book sales, both in private conversations and in public posts on his social media website.
Who’s Running for President in 2024?
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The race begins. Four years after a historically large number of candidates ran for president, the field for the 2024 campaign is starting out small and is likely to be headlined by the same two men who ran last time: President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump. Here’s who has entered the race so far, and who else might run:
Donald Trump. The former president is running to retake the office he lost in 2020. Though somewhat diminished in influence within the Republican Party — and facing several legal investigations — he retains a large and committed base of supporters, and he could be aided in the primary by multiple challengers splitting a limited anti-Trump vote.
Nikki Haley. The former governor of South Carolina and U.N. ambassador under Mr. Trump has presented herself as a member of “a new generation of leadership” and emphasized her life experience as a daughter of Indian immigrants. She was long seen as a rising G.O.P. star but her allure in the party has declined amid her on-again, off-again embrace of Mr. Trump.
Vivek Ramaswamy. The multimillionaire entrepreneur and author describes himself as “anti-woke” and is known in right-wing circles for opposing corporate efforts to advance political, social and environmental causes. He has never held elected office and does not have the name recognition of most other G.O.P. contenders.
President Biden. While Mr. Biden has not formally declared his candidacy for a second term, and there has been much hand-wringing among Democrats over whether he should seek re-election given his age, he is widely expected to run. If he does, Mr. Biden’s strategy is to frame the race as a contest between a seasoned leader and a conspiracy-minded opposition.
Marianne Williamson. The self-help author and former spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey is the first Democrat to formally enter the race. Kicking off her second presidential campaign, Ms. Williamson called Mr. Biden a “weak choice” and said the party shouldn’t fear a primary. Few in Democratic politics are taking her entry into the race seriously.
Others who are likely to run. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire are seen as weighing Republican bids for the White House.
Mr. Trump announced his stop in Davenport only after details of Mr. DeSantis’s book tour became public. He has spent much of his time on social media in recent weeks posting results of public polls that show him ahead of the Florida governor with Republican voters.
Ahead of Mr. DeSantis’s events on Friday, Mr. Trump made multiple posts that attacked his rival over attempts to cut ethanol production, glossed over his own up-and-down record with Iowa’s agricultural industry and proclaimed himself to have been the nation’s most pro-farmer president.
“Tell that to Ron DeSanctimonious when he shows up to your door, hat in hand,” Mr. Trump wrote in a post after midnight on Friday, just hours ahead of the Florida governor’s visit. “Tell him to go home!”
The dueling events give Republicans in this Mississippi River town one of the first opportunities in the country for a side-by-side comparison of the two Floridians leading early Republican presidential primary polls.
Jim Dirk, a 61-year-old dental technician who attended Mr. DeSantis’s event on Friday, said he would support Mr. Trump as the nominee, but was interested in finding another option.
“His policies were OK, but he was too flamboyant with his message,” Mr. Dirk said.
Steve Crew, who was also at Mr. DeSantis’s event in Davenport, said he supported Mr. Trump and wished that he and Mr. DeSantis could run on the same ticket.
“But that probably won’t happen,” Mr. Crew added.
Mr. DeSantis’s visit to Iowa included an overnight stay on Thursday and then a pair of book tour events on Friday that drew about 1,000 people each in Davenport and Des Moines. He also stopped at the State Capitol, where he met privately with Republican leadership in the Iowa Legislature.
Mr. DeSantis has, so far, declined to directly confront Mr. Trump in public, a decision that could call into question the brand he has pushed as one of his party’s most ruthless political brawlers.
But his approach could also appeal to a party that overwhelmingly maintains a favorable opinion of the former president. Mr. DeSantis has instead made thinly veiled contrasts with Mr. Trump, telling crowds that his administration in Tallahassee has been free of leaks and chaos — such as the kind that often plagued the Trump White House — and excoriating the leadership of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who had been one of Mr. Trump’s key advisers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr. DeSantis has so thoroughly wiped Mr. Trump from his public speeches that allusions to him can come across as jarring. During his speech on Friday in Des Moines, Mr. DeSantis said that the nation did, in fact, need a wall along the southern border. But the crowd — which had responded to Mr. DeSantis with enthusiastic ovations throughout the event — reacted with muted applause and murmurs at the mention of one of Mr. Trump’s signature issues.
Still, there are clear comparisons between Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis on the campaign trail.
Both savor even the smallest details while retelling the story of their biggest electoral victories, both insist that the mainstream news media is out to get them and both rely on a healthy dose of superlatives when speaking about their book sales.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has toggled between direct and subtle critiques of Mr. DeSantis. He unveiled his first attack before the midterms by referring to him as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
But while he has fired away at the Florida governor on social media, he has been more oblique in public. At a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference this month, Mr. Trump made a veiled reference to Mr. DeSantis’s record in Congress, which includes voting to raise the retirement age for Medicare and Social Security benefits.
“We’re not going back to people that want to destroy our great Social Security system,” Mr. Trump said. “Even some in our own party, I wonder who that might be, that want to raise the minimum age of Social Security to 70, 75, or even 80 in some cases.”
Mr. Trump, who last visited Iowa last year on Nov. 3 for a rally ahead of the midterm elections, will fly in for the evening and address a crowd at the 2,400-seat Adler Theater. Mr. Trump has opted for smaller events to start his third campaign. But he is considering holding the first large rally of his latest campaign in the coming weeks in Texas, according to people familiar with the planning.
His speech has been billed as a policy event focused on education — one of Mr. DeSantis’s signature policy issues in Florida.