By Tim Reid
(Reuters) -Donald Trump will attend the Iowa State Fair this Saturday, his campaign announced on Tuesday, a move likely designed to steal the limelight from his White House rivals, especially Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who will visit the event on the same day.
It had not been clear until now that Trump, the runaway frontrunner for the Republican nomination, would attend the annual fair, a political must for aspiring presidential candidates in state capital Des Moines that runs from Aug. 10 to Aug. 20.
Trump's decision to attend the event on the same day flagged earlier by DeSantis, his closest rival for the nomination, is likely no coincidence.
DeSantis is desperately trying to recalibrate his campaign, which has been sinking in the polls and seen two staff shake-ups in the past two weeks.
The Iowa state fair 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.
Most of Trump's rivals, including DeSantis, 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," a Trump 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)