Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took some swings but none at former President Donald Trump Thursday in Iowa.
Accompanied by his wife and children, the Florida governor held a rally at the iconic “Field of Dreams” movie set in Dyersville, a far cry from the Fulton County jail where the 77-year-old 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner was booked on charges related to an alleged plot to overturn the 2020 Georgia election results.
“Well, I’m glad I’m at the Field of Dreams. I’m happy to be here,” DeSantis, 44, responded when asked about the stark contrast between how he and Trump were spending their Thursday evening.
The only contrast the Florida governor was willing to discuss from the unmistakable baseball diamond – surrounded by cornfields and made famous by the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” – was that between him and his GOP rivals onstage Wednesday night in Milwaukee at the first primary debate, which he argued “came through very strongly.”
“The thing about the debate is, you know, nobody hit me so I wasn’t gonna get involved in that scrum,” DeSantis said of his performance at the lively forum. “I know those guys were going back and forth. And what I did with 100% of my time was to speak directly to the American people about our vision to reverse the country’s decline.”
Hours before the event, the DeSantis campaign had been bracing for an onslaught of attacks from his lower-polling opponents.
“He undoubtedly will be the center of attack,” DeSantis campaign manager James Uthmeier told ABC News before the debate.
DeSantis also insisted that he would back the former president no matter what if he were to win the primary when questioned about his apparent hesitation at raising his hand when Fox News host and debate moderator Bret Baier asked candidates if they would still support Trump as the GOP nominee if he were convicted in a court of law.
“It wasn’t because of that,” DeSantis said of his slow hand raise. “I signed that pledge. I will follow the pledge 100%. I objected to doing the hand-raise and I thought most of the candidates seemed to agree with me and so I was like, ‘OK, are we really doing this?’ and people were doing it.”
“I don’t think he would be the nominee at that point, but I signed the pledge and that’s just the reality of the situation,” he added.
A post-debate survey commissioned exclusively for The Post found that 21% of GOP voters thought DeSantis performed the best at Wednesday’s debate.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy edged out the Florida governor for the top spot in the poll, however, with 23% picking the 38-year-old “Woke, Inc” author and political newcomer as the debate winner.