Jim Dirk, a 61-year-old dental technician who attended Mr. DeSantis’s event on Friday, said he would support Mr. Trump as the nominee, but was interested in finding another option.
“His policies were OK, but he was too flamboyant with his message,” Mr. Dirk said.
Steve Crew, who was also at Mr. DeSantis’s event in Davenport, said he supported Mr. Trump and wished that he and Mr. DeSantis could run on the same ticket.
“But that probably won’t happen,” Mr. Crew added.
Mr. DeSantis’s visit to Iowa included an overnight stay on Thursday and then a pair of book tour events on Friday that drew about 1,000 people each in Davenport and Des Moines. He also stopped at the State Capitol, where he met privately with Republican leadership in the Iowa Legislature.
Mr. DeSantis has, so far, declined to directly confront Mr. Trump in public, a decision that could call into question the brand he has pushed as one of his party’s most ruthless political brawlers.
But his approach could also appeal to a party that overwhelmingly maintains a favorable opinion of the former president. Mr. DeSantis has instead made thinly veiled contrasts with Mr. Trump, telling crowds that his administration in Tallahassee has been free of leaks and chaos — such as the kind that often plagued the Trump White House — and excoriating the leadership of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who had been one of Mr. Trump’s key advisers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr. DeSantis has so thoroughly wiped Mr. Trump from his public speeches that allusions to him can come across as jarring. During his speech on Friday in Des Moines, Mr. DeSantis said that the nation did, in fact, need a wall along the southern border. But the crowd — which had responded to Mr. DeSantis with enthusiastic ovations throughout the event — reacted with muted applause and murmurs at the mention of one of Mr. Trump’s signature issues.
Still, there are clear comparisons between Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis on the campaign trail.
Both savor even the smallest details while retelling the story of their biggest electoral victories, both insist that the mainstream news media is out to get them and both rely on a healthy dose of superlatives when speaking about their book sales.