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Trump celebrates win in Colorado election case during return visit to Iowa

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Bryon Houlgrave)

FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — Former President Donald Trump celebrated a win in a closely watched election case during a return visit to Iowa Saturday, where he blasted his political foes and encouraged his supporters to not move past their grievances with President Joe Biden.

A Colorado judge on Friday rejected an effort to keep the GOP front-runner off the state’s primary ballot, concluding that Trump had engaged in insurrection during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol but that it was unclear whether a Civil War-era constitutional amendment barring insurrectionists from public office applied to the presidency. It was Trump’s latest win following rulings in similar cases in Minnesota and Michigan.

Trump, campaigning in west-central Iowa, called the Colorado decision “a gigantic court victory” as he panned what he called “an outrageous attempt to disenfranchise millions of voters by getting us thrown off the ballot.”

“Our opponents are showing every day that they hate democracy,” he charged before a crowd of about 2,000 people at a commit-to-caucus event at a high school in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where people had lined up for hours to get a seat in the gymnasium.

Trump’s visit was part of his fall push to sign up supporters and volunteers before the state’s fast-approaching caucuses that kick off the race for the Republican presidential nomination. It was the latest in a series of targeted regional stops aimed at seizing on the large crowds the former president draws to press attendees to commit to voting for him on Jan. 15.

While Trump has had a comfortable edge over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in early polls of likely caucus participants, Trump’s campaign has been more aggressive in Iowa than any of the other early-voting states.

And he continued to attack DeSantis during his appearance Saturday, slamming the governor over his past opposition to federal ethanol mandates and for running against Trump.

Trump in a Thursday radio interview mocked DeSantis for “doing very poorly” even after winning the endorsement of Gov. Kim Reynolds, who broke with the general practice of Iowa governors not to support a candidate before the caucuses. “I was really good to her and then she said she was going to remain neutral. And I said, ‘That’s OK,’ but I didn’t really want her particularly,” he told host Simon Conway.

“Ron is doing very poorly in the polls and I guess he put a full-court press on her,” Trump said. “And she did that. And that’s fine. I think it’s fine. I don’t think it’s made any difference.”

DeSantis, who stopped by his campaign’s new office in Urbandale on Saturday, told reporters that Trump was making missteps by attacking Reynolds and focusing on larger rallies.

“I think it’s been a mistake how he’s not been willing to engage with Iowans outside of swooping in and doing, you know, a speech and then just leaving,” DeSantis said. “I think you got to get on the ground, you got to shake the hands, you got to answer their questions.”

DeSantis was campaigning across southern Iowa, moving closer to his goal of campaigning in all 99 counties. That’s a traditional marker some candidates have tried to reach to show their commitment to Iowa.

Despite DeSantis’ push, Dale Mason, a construction worker from Fort Dodge, is a solid Trump backer.

“Trump’s already proven himself to me. If it works, then why mess with it?” Mason said. “I feel like it worked when he was in office.”

The 31-year-old single father said he lives paycheck to paycheck and worries about being able to feed his 12-year-old daughter or put gas in the car. Trump “made it easier for us to get by,” Mason said, adding, “He supported us so I think it’s our turn to give back to him.”

Sue Hewett, who hasn’t seen Trump campaign in person before, was concerned about being far back in line. “There’s isn’t anybody coming across like he does,” said Hewett, 68, who lives in Fort Dodge. “They don’t have the draw.” She said she was open to considering different candidates, but so far hasn’t been persuaded by any of the other contenders.

Trump has made regular stops in Iowa, appearing at eight events before audiences totaling more than 16,000, according to Trump’s Secret Service detail, in the past eight weeks.

It’s part of Trump’s 2024 strategy to stress organization more than his campaign did in 2016, when he finished a competitive second place.

Rivals, especially DeSantis, have been in Iowa more often as they hope to score a better-than-expected finish against Trump, who also leads in national Republican polls.

A recent memo to donors from DeSantis’ campaign suggested that DeSantis’ all-in strategy in Iowa was in keeping with his hope to rob Trump of “a big win in Iowa.”

___ Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.