By Tim Reid
(Reuters) – Donald Trump plans to attend the upcoming Iowa State Fair but will skip events with other Republican presidential candidates, an aide to the former president said on Monday, a move likely designed to steal the limelight from his White House rivals.
It had not been clear until now that Trump, the runaway frontrunner for the Republican nomination, would attend the annual fair in state capital Des Moines that runs from Aug. 10 to Aug. 20.
It last year attracted 1 million attendees and is an important venue for political candidates as they court voters in the state that opens the nominating contest in January.
Trump’s move to attend the event appears designed to take the spotlight away from the other Republican candidates, especially his nearest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been sinking in the polls and who is desperately trying to recalibrate his campaign in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Most of his rivals have agreed to be interviewed individually at the state fair by Iowa’s Republican Governor Kim Reynolds between Aug. 11 and Aug. 18, but Trump turned down her invitation. Trump has been angered by her public neutrality in the primary race and her appearance with DeSantis at several of his Iowa events.
In 2015, early in his ultimately successful bid for the White House, and when most pundits were dismissing his campaign, Trump flew into the Iowa State Fair in a helicopter.
He was given an enthusiastic reception by crowds, in an early sign of the support that would propel him to victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in November 2016.
“Just like he had a great event in 2015, he’s going to have a great event at the Iowa State Fair in 2023,” the aide told Reuters.
Trump is currently crushing his primary opposition. He is roughly 30 points ahead of DeSantis, with the others still only in single digits.
Trump has been telling crowds in recent weeks that he does not see the point of attending the first Republican debate on Aug. 23, because he is so far ahead of the field.
The aide said Trump has not ruled out attending the debate, but is “unlikely to attend.”
(Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Jamie Freed)