Making a Boisterous Entrance, Trump Steals Spotlight in Iowa

Former President Donald J. Trump has made it known that he will not concede even a moment of the spotlight to his 2024 rivals.

On Saturday, just as Gov. Ron DeSantis was working the pork tent at the Iowa State Fair — a rite of passage for presidential aspirants — Mr. Trump’s private plane flew noisily within spitting distance of the fairgrounds.

Another plane circled the fairgrounds earlier in the day with a “Be likable, Ron!” banner trailing behind. The exclamation point was designed to look like the logo of a previous Florida governor that Mr. Trump dispatched in 2016, Jeb Bush.

The Trump campaign wouldn’t take credit for the plane, though it heavily promoted the stunt. “I direct all inquiries to Generra Peck,” said Steven Cheung, Mr. Trump’s spokesman, referring to the campaign manager that Mr. DeSantis replaced this week.

In the weeks leading up to the state fair, Mr. Trump has been on rocky terms with leaders in Iowa, including the state’s popular governor, Kim Reynolds, but he is well suited to the old-school politicking and political theater for which the event is known. On Saturday, he met a much warmer reception than Mr. DeSantis, his leading rival, who has struggled to connect with voters in more unscripted moments — a vulnerability Mr. Trump took advantage of on the fairgrounds.

In another effort to poke Mr. DeSantis, the former president brought along a host of prominent Florida Republicans who have endorsed him over their governor. “We got pork that’s more well done than Ron DeSantis,” said Representative Matt Gaetz, a former DeSantis ally who is backing Mr. Trump in 2024 and was wearing a shirt that said “Florida man.”

As Trump walked into the pork grilling area — wearing a white shirt with cuff links, no tie and a suit — he was handed a pork chop on a stick. He briefly held it aloft before offering it to a right-wing television personality nearby, who proceeded to eat it.

Later, Mr. Trump spoke inside the Steer N’ Stein beer building, which advertises its extra cold 27-degree brews and on Saturday had a “MAGA Meal Day” special of “$24 for 2024” that included a double cheeseburger, “freedom fries” and a coke.

Before he took the stage, Mr. Trump’s team handed out leaflets attacking Mr. DeSantis for his position on agricultural issues, calling him an “utter catastrophe” for farmers. The handouts were a reminder of the asymmetry of the unfolding primary: Day after day, Mr. Trump and his team rip Mr. DeSantis, who has mostly tried to disengage with the former president, lest he anger the sizable portion of the party that likes Mr. Trump but that he still hopes to win over.

Mr. DeSantis wasn’t winning over Trump supporters on Saturday. They booed him as he strolled by the beer hall with his daughter on his shoulders, before Mr. Trump arrived.

Reid J. Epstein and Shane Goldmacher contributed reporting.

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