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Three protesters interrupt DeSantis rally in Ames; one tackled on stage

Cleo Westin
Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats stands next to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news gaggle following a campaign rally at Jethro’s in Ames on Jan. 11, 2023.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had his rally at the Ames Jethro’s interrupted three times by protesters, including one who briefly stood on stage next to the governor with a banner that read “DeSantis: climate criminal” before being tackled onto the ground by security.

“This is [what is] wrong with the college system, right there,” DeSantis said while pointing at the protester. “That’s exhibit A.”

Those events occurred just minutes after Family Leader CEO Bob Vander Plaats introduced DeSantis and cited his track record of endorsing three straight winners of competitive Iowa Republican Caucuses, though none of those winners went on to be the Republican nominee.

“Ted Cruz was supposed to get beat in 2016. He comes in, shocks the media, shocks the nation, shocks the world [and] wins the Iowa Caucuses,” Vander Plaats said. “I believe on Monday night, this guy Ron DeSantis will shock the media, shock the nation, shock the world [and will] win the Iowa Caucuses with your help.”

Vander Plaats also referenced Gov. Kim Reynolds’ endorsement of DeSantis and said he believes Washington, D.C. “could use a bit more” of Iowa and Florida.

“I look at the peers of Gov. DeSantis – Kim Reynolds being one of them – and the reason I like him so much is he resembles a lot of what Gov. Reynolds has done here,” Vander Plaats said.

DeSantis’ campaign appeared cognizant of the rally’s proximity to Iowa State University as they passed out “Cyclones for DeSantis” stickers and during his speech, DeSantis explained how his five-year-old son has become a Cyclone fan after buying a Cyclone football themed checkers board at Machine Shed in Des Moines, Iowa.

However, that did not prevent DeSantis from criticizing higher education and students who he said earn “relatively worthless” degrees in things like “zombie studies.” He also said Floridians should not “be funding indoctrination camps” in reference to colleges and universities.

“Every five years [tenured professors] can be terminated for poor performance,” DeSantis said on higher education in Florida. “We’ve eliminated the DEI, from our public universities, we treat people as individuals, we don’t divvy them up by race or gender or ethnicity or put them into groups.”

DeSantis ultimately said that, while he is supportive of higher education, he believes it needs to be reformed.

“Higher education is supposed to be about the pursuit of truth, it’s supposed to be about the promotion of academic rigor, and it’s supposed to be about preparing students to be citizens of our Republic,” DeSantis said. “That’s what we’re doing in Florida.”

DeSantis touched on a variety of other issues throughout the event, including his policy positions to defund the U.N., the use of special forces against drug cartels to “wipe them out,” combatting fentanyl overdoses. He also mentioned his fellow Republican candidates, using a line that has made frequent appearances in his stump speech, the same line he started his Wednesday CNN debate with.

“Donald Trump is running for his issues, Nikki Haley is running for the donors’ issues,” DeSantis said. “I’m running solely for your issues, your family’s issues and to turn this country around. That’s the sole focus. That’s the sole mission.”

According to FiveThirtyEight’s polling aggregate, Trump is polling 35% higher than any other candidate for the Iowa Caucus. But, frigid temperatures may hinder turnout on Monday, and DeSantis began his speech Thursday asking caucusgoers to “trudge through some really cold weather” on caucus night.

“I’d rather be the underdog,” DeSantis said. “I understand that there’s a lot of folks that have wanted to create that narrative really from the beginning of the election. I’d rather be in that position.”

Furthermore, DeSantis advocated for spending cuts at a federal level and said implementing policies like term limits would aid Congress members in successfully cutting spending.

“These guys just try to take the path of least resistance and that means borrow more because if you cut spending, there’s constituencies for that. If they raise taxes, people get mad at that, and understandably so. So you need term limits,” DeSantis said.

He also said an additional Constitutional amendment could be part of his solution.

“I also think we need something like a 28th Amendment that says simply Congress shall make no law respecting the citizens of the United States that does not also apply to members of Congress themselves, and make sure that they are citizens and not more,” DeSantis said.

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  • D

    David Calof | Jan 13, 2024 at 2:20 pm

    Exactly which laws apply to all citizens but NOT legislators?. DeSantis is simply pandering. There is no such gap to fill and he cynically knows it

  • J

    Joe | Jan 12, 2024 at 9:35 am

    Did they really have to tackle the protestor? Why not ask them to leave?