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As the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner approaches, former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis find themselves contending with a pivotal moment in their respective 2024 primary campaigns. However, amid the special counsel’s ongoing investigation and potential second indictment of Trump, his popularity in the Hawkeye State has only increased, leaving DeSantis at a disadvantage.

The Lincoln Dinner is a critical opportunity for candidates to connect with Iowa’s caucusgoers, activists, and officials, as it draws elected officials and members of county Republican organizations. Candidates can use this platform to schmooze with potential supporters and seek endorsements from influential individuals. For caucusgoers, it’s a chance to hear from the candidates and assess their speaking skills, focus on issues, and ability to relate to voters.

Trump has been selective with his campaign appearances and has not received invitations to some events, but his dominance in early primary polls remains strong. He is unlikely to debate next month in Wisconsin, given his significant lead over DeSantis and the rest of the field.

On the other hand, the Lincoln Dinner will mark DeSantis’s first appearance at a large event after his campaign reset and restructure, which included firing 40% of his original staffers. Concerns have arisen regarding his progress and fundraising, and his campaign recently held a donor retreat to strategize. DeSantis is working to present himself as a viable candidate, emphasizing his previous electoral success in Florida.

As both Trump and DeSantis compete for support in Iowa, it remains to be seen how they will navigate the challenges ahead. For conservatives, this primary contest represents a crucial moment to assess the strengths and appeal of these potential nominees and choose the candidate best equipped to defeat Biden and the Democrats in 2024.