Will Hurd doubles down on Trump criticism in Iowa, but this time hears cheers, not jeers

The last time Republican presidential hopeful Will Hurd directly criticized former President Donald Trump in Iowa, he was roundly booed for his biting remarks.

But during a visit to the Iowa State Fair Friday, Hurd received a much different reception for his critical comments about the former president.

Hurd made a brief pitch to voters during the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox before taking questions from attendees. The first question centered around his response to Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

“Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. Period. Full stop,” Hurd said, drawing applause from the dozens of those gathered.

Hurd continued his point, stating Trump lost the popular vote because he failed to grow the Republican voting base. If the Republican candidate is unable to appeal to a wider base of voters, President Joe Biden will win reelection, Hurd argued.

“We should listen to the voters,” Hurd said. “Donald Trump lost the house in 2018. He lost the Senate and the White House in 2020. And he prevented a red wave from happening in 2022. The lesson from the 2020 election was real simple: don’t be a jerk, and don’t be a socialist.”

The reception Friday was markedly different from the response he received when he spoke at the Republican Party of Iowa’s annual Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines last month.

Hurd had directly criticized Trump during his remarks, saying Trump was running for president not to represent voters, but to “stay out of prison.” The round of boos in response drowned out the few cheers of support.

Hurd told reporters following the Soapbox Friday that he is undeterred from criticizing the former president, a markedly different approach than the majority of Republican candidates. He said he often hears from voters who agree with his message and thank him for “speaking the truth.”

“For me, when I came here, I delivered those remarks not to the people that I knew were going to boo, but to the people there that agree with me, which is the majority of Americans,” Hurd told reporters. “So I’m going to continue to speak truth to power.”

Hurd, a former CIA agent and Texas congressman, started his visit to the fair with Gov. Kim Reynolds during her “fair-side chats” at JR’s SouthPork Ranch. After, he strolled through the grounds, participating in the Iowa Secretary of State’s straw poll and eating — by Hurd’s count — about a dozen chocolate chip cookies from Barksdale’s.

His message to Iowans centered around his experience as a former CIA agent and leader in cybersecurity companies. He painted a grim picture of the stability of America’s national security, saying more needs to be done to ensure China doesn’t surpass the U.S. as a global superpower.

He also called for more regulation around the growing technology sector, especially around artificial intelligence.

Republican presidential candidate former Texas Rep. Will Hurd speaks at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox during the Iowa State Fair, Friday, Aug. 18, 2023.

Republican presidential candidate former Texas Rep. Will Hurd speaks at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox during the Iowa State Fair, Friday, Aug. 18, 2023.

“I’m a dark horse candidate. I recognize that,” he said. “We are faced with a number of complicated generational-defining challenges that we have to address if we’re going to ensure this experiment called America continues to exist for another 247 years.”

GOP candidates are set to face off on a national stage next week during the Republican National Committee’s GOP primary debate.

Hurd, however, has been steadfast in his refusal to sign the RNC’s “loyalty pledge,” potentially jeopardizing his chance to participate in the Aug. 23 debate.

“My problem is not with supporting Republican nominees, it’s supporting Donald Trump,” Hurd told reporters. “I also think these loyalty pledges are not something that the Republican Party should do.”

The day before his visit to the fair, Hurd announced he’d met the donor requirement to participate in the debate, having successfully collected at least 40,000 unique donors to his campaign. In the weeks leading to the deadline, the candidate had been asking voters to pledge just $1 to help his campaign meet the criteria.

He has yet to meet minimum standards for polling. However, he told reporters that’s because the RNC isn’t tallying state polling that shows he meets that metric.

Still, Hurd said he has tickets to Milwaukee, underscoring his confidence that he will be among the Republican candidates on the stage Aug. 23.

Michaela Ramm covers health care for the Des Moines Register. She can be reached at mramm@registermedia.com, at (319) 339-7354 or on Twitter at @Michaela_Ramm.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Is Will Hurd’s tough stance on Trump hurting his candidacy? He says no.

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