URBANDALE, Iowa — At the Machine Shed restaurant here on Thursday morning, 200 people crammed inside to hear from Donald Trump.
Idling in the parking lot outside was the latest flashpoint in Trump’s feud with Ron DeSantis — a campaign bus parked there by a pro-DeSantis group to troll the former president. In return, the bus was eventually blocked in by a black SUV from Trump’s security entourage — part of an ongoing saga of mutual trolling by the two GOP campaigns, their staffs and their associated super PACs.
The spat over the bus, a prop organized by the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down, has been going on since late Wednesday, when staff on the two candidate’s campaigns got into a Twitter scuffle over it. Trump’s spokesperson Steven Cheung posted a photo of a man hunched over beside the Never Back Down bus parked on a street in downtown Des Moines, calling it “Always Broke Down.”
Christina Pushaw, who oversees DeSantis’ rapid response team, replied with a photo of Cheung standing by the bus, claiming he was trying to “hitch a ride.” Cheung returned the fire. “Not interested in getting into the creepy Ron van no matter how much candy you offer,” he tweeted.
The next day, the pro-DeSantis super PAC was back for more.
“We were happy to welcome the former President to Iowa with the Never Back Down bus in front of his hotel and the parking lot of his event, now that he’s decided to show up after his failed rally,” Dave Vasquez, press secretary for the super PAC, said in a statement.
Trump’s campaign last month canceled a rally scheduled for Des Moines after a tornado watch was issued, though DeSantis eventually made his own impromptu stop in the city that evening after leaving an event in eastern Iowa.
On Thursday morning, the pro-DeSantis group with the bus outside the Machine Shed placed fliers on cars in the parking lot.
“Iowa protects children with heartbeats … Trump says that’s ‘too harsh,’” they read, a reference to critical comments Trump recently made about DeSantis signing a six-week abortion ban — similar to one on the books in Iowa.
And inside the restaurant, Trump made a couple digs of his own at DeSantis, who earlier that morning got into a testy exchange with a reporter in New Hampshire who asked why he wasn’t holding a public question-and-answer period during his events.
“I see these politicians, they all don’t want to take questions and they read the speech,” Trump said, before holding up a copy of prepared remarks he had largely ignored. “See, here’s the speech I’m supposed to be reading.”
Trump, whose staff had made him aware of DeSantis’ brush-up with the reporter earlier in the morning, according to a person familiar with the discussion and granted anonymity to speak freely, proceeded to take questions from audience members for 20 minutes.
He likewise told the crowd they shouldn’t support DeSantis because the Florida governor said he needed and would serve eight years in the White House to fully carry out his conservative agenda. Trump claimed he would fix the country in six months after returning to office.
DeSantis had a response for that, too.
While mingling with supporters in New Hampshire on Thursday afternoon, a reporter asked DeSantis about Trump’s comments across the country earlier. The Florida governor, without looking over at the reporter, replied in between posing for photos.
“Why didn’t he do it in his first four years?”
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