Donald Trump Jets Into Iowa and Starts Firing at Republican Rivals

The real estate mogul and TV star takes the stage in Des Moines.

Donald Trump takes the stage in Des Moines for a campaign appearance.

Photographer: John McCormick/Bloomberg

Donald Trump has built stunning high-rises and golf courses, starred in his own reality television show and made billions. He did something Tuesday evening in Iowa that he's threatened to do many times before but never actually done: actively campaigned for the American presidency.

It was classic Trump, as he showcased his business success and what he described as his instinctive ability to predict the future. He also showed an eagerness to criticize his fellow Republicans running for president.

"He can't even put on a tie and jacket and he's running for president?" Trump asked, noting Jeb Bush's casual dress Monday for his presidential campaign announcement.

But it wasn't just Bush's clothing that drew Trump's criticism. He also cited the former Florida governor's support of Common Core national educational standards, a turn-off for many conservatives. "I'll give him credit, he sticks to it," Trump said of Bush.

He also called out Senator Marco Rubio for supporting a failed bipartisan effort at immigration reform in Congress, a point of skepticism about the Floridian among many conservatives.

"I'm more disappointed with the Republicans because they are gutless," Trump said, after he asked how his party can beat Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner.

"There is nobody that's going to beat her except Donald Trump," he added later.

On the battle with the Islamic State, Trump said U.S. air power should be used to destroy the oil fields in Iraq that provide the terrorists with resources. "What we should do right now is go blast the hell out of that oil," he said to big applause.

After formally entering the Republican presidential nomination race earlier in the day at his Trump Tower in Manhattan, the real estate mogul and host of NBC's "The Apprentice" flew aboard his private jet to Des Moines for a campaign rally in front of an enthusiastic crowd of more than 300.

The gathering had all of the traditional campaign trappings: T-shirts, buttons, bumper stickers and volunteer sign-up sheets. Miss Iowa, wearing her crown, even sang the national anthem.

Not shy

Never shy about his wealth, Trump, 68, said he would be an independent voice because he doesn't need anyone's money. "I don’t need campaign contributions," he said. "I don't need money to fly in. I fly in very nicely."

Still, even with a private jet, Trump arrived more than an hour late to his first official early voting state campaign rally. 

After about 30 minutes of speaking, Trump took questions from the audience. His first was from a man who asked about his position on abortion. Trump responded that he opposes abortion rights but provided little elaboration.

To win a place in the first Republican presidential debate in August, Trump will need to be among the top 10 candidates when the five most recent national polls are averaged together before the event, according to rules outlined by host Fox News. His strong national name recognition is likely to help him accomplish that.

In a Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll conducted in late May, Trump drew support from 4 percent of likely Republican caucus participants, the same as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and ahead of former Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former New York Governor George Pataki.

Trump's Iowa upside, however, appears to have major limitations. More than half of likely Republican caucus participants in the poll, 58 percent, said they would never support Trump. That was the highest negative assessment of any candidate tested.

While Democrats joyfully welcomed Trump's entry into the race, some Republicans were less delighted. The Club for Growth, an anti-tax group in Washington, called him "not a serious Republican candidate" and said his politics were more aligned with Democrats.

Debate spot

"Many of his positions make him better suited to take on Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary," Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in a statement. "It would also be unfortunate if he takes away a spot at even one Republican debate."

Several of those gathered to see Trump at a historic theater near downtown Des Moines said they think Trump is really running this time.

"I don't think he would spend the dollars if it was just to promote himself," said Dennis Schultz, 71, a retired manager at Pioneer Hi-Bred in suburban Des Moines who leans Republican. "When he decides to do something, he does his research and does it well."

Cheryl TanCredi, 55, a community outreach director from Des Moines who considers herself an independent voter, said she plans to volunteer for Trump and campaign for him in Iowa.

"I've been undecided and looking for a good alternative because I'm not for Hillary," said TanCredi, wearing a red and white T-shirt Trump's campaign had given her on the way in. "I hope he's really running for president because we need someone who is straightforward--and he doesn't need the job for the money."