Trump supporters and DeSantis super PAC officials spar at a Des Moines dive

Trump supporters and DeSantis super PAC officials spar at a Des Moines dive

A shouting match transpired after a top Never Back Down official took umbrage with a Trump backer's hat.


DES MOINES – Hours before Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis descended on the Iowa State Fair for rare, in person, dual events, supporters for each of the leading candidates were at each other’s throats, including at a dive bar in the capital city.

At nearly every one of his stops on Saturday, DeSantis found himself fiercely bracketed by Trump supporters, who seemed eager to not just disrupt the Florida governor but to get a rise out of his team. Sitting down for a fair-side chat with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, DeSantis was drowned out by bells and whistles. As he flipped pork burgers at the pork tent, a flock of Trump supporters chanted “We love Trump” in his direction.

Outside the pork tent, things were even dicier. One Trump supporter could be heard trying to convince a man in a DeSantis shirt that DeSantis hadn’t done enough as Florida governor to prevent pedophilia and child trafficking. The DeSantis supporter was unmoved.

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The tension at the fairgrounds underscored just how vitriolic the primary season has grown between the two camps — a reflection of the sharp-elbowed approach that each candidate has made central to their public image.

It’s a dynamic that has begun spilling over into non-political settings, as well.

The night before the camps squared off at the state fair, an incident took place between the two at a bar in downtown Des Moines. According to three people who were at The Copper Cup, officials with the DeSantis-allied super PAC, Never Back Down, got into a shouting match with a Trump backer not affiliated with the campaign wearing Trump garb. The exact nature of what was said is disputed, though each side agreed that it centered on the Trump hats some of the patrons were sporting.

Fair goers have been spotted wearing Trump ‘Back to Back Champ’ Iowa State Fair Hats, which suggest — incorrectly — that the former president won the caucus there in 2016. And according to two witnesses, it was those hats that sparked a response from Erin Perrine, one of the Never Back Down officials.

“You know you lost,” one witness recalled Perrine saying.

The resulting shouting match lasted several minutes. Multiple F bombs were dropped. At one point, a Trump supporter made a lewd comment to Perrine, a fourth person familiar with the events told POLITICO. No physical fight ever occurred.

Perrine declined to comment.

The bad blood spilled over into Saturday.

DeSantis supporters scoffed as a plane flew a banner overhead reading: “Be likable, Ron!” Looking up at the sky, Matt Wells, the Washington County chair for DeSantis’ Iowa operation, muttered that “Trump people are degenerates.”

The tension, at times, had a sharks and jets vibe underscored by the respective uniforms adopted by each side. DeSantis backers were dressed in navy blue T-shirts embroidered with the Never Back Down name of the governor’s allied Super PAC. Trump fans wore white “Team Trump” shirts and carried green, white and yellow signs that read: “President Donald J. Trump. Back to Back Iowa Champ.”

The mud-slinging was accompanied by real politicking. The people wearing Never Back Down shirts fanned out across the crowd at the pork tent, engaging in one-on-one conversations with fair goers trying to sell them on why DeSantis was the better candidate than Trump.

While Trump supporters waited for Trump to arrive at the Steer N’ Stein on Saturday, several people wielding DeSantis signs walked by the open-air bar. The room of Trump fans erupted in booing.