Fledgling GOP presidential candidate Will Hurd learned the hard way Friday night just how popular former President Trump is among Iowa voters, getting booed by the crowd after taking a dig at Mr. Trump’s legal woes at a GOP candidates dinner.
Mr. Hurd, a former U.S. representative from Texas, appeared alongside other Republican presidential hopefuls at the annual GOP Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines.
His ten-minute turn at the podium was nearly drowned out by the angry crowd that booed after Mr. Hurd invoked Mr. Trump’s popular campaign slogan and said he was only running to dodge convictions in looming federal and state criminal cases.
“Donald Trump is not running for president to make America great again,” Mr. Hurd said. “Donald Trump is running to stay out of prison.”
Amid jeers from the crowd, Mr. Hurd kept talking. Mr. Trump’s nomination would mean losing the general election, he said.
“The truth is hard,” Mr. Hurd said. “But if we elect Donald Trump, we are willingly giving Joe Biden four more years in the White House and America can’t handle that.”
Mr. Trump is facing criminal charges by federal prosecutors and in Georgia over his effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. He has already been indicted by federal prosecutors on dozens of charges related to his handling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home, and separately in New York, over alleged hush money payments.
Earlier this week, federal prosecutors added three felony charges in the classified documents matter, alleging Mr. Trump worked to destroy security footage related to the case.
Mr. Trump’s popularity has endured and even grown since the indictments.
In Iowa, he out-polls his nearest challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by an average of 33 points, according to RealClearPolitics.
Mr. DeSantis was among the slate of candidates at the dinner Friday and steered clear of lobbing attacks at the frontrunner.
He focused his criticism on President Joe Biden and avoided talking about the charges against Mr. Trump. He said as president he would end the “weaponization” of the Justice Department.
Mr. Trump appeared last at the dinner and the crowd gave him a standing ovation as he walked on the stage.
Mr. Trump touted his record in office and its benefits for Iowans, and took a swing at Mr. “DeSanctus,” who he warned would not be able to beat Mr. Biden in November.
“I wouldn’t take a chance on that one,” he said.
Mr. Trump shrugged off his field of more than a dozen GOP opponents, telling the crowd, “I understand the other candidates are falling very flat. It’s like death.”