(Bloomberg) — Republican frontrunner Donald Trump cast himself as the party’s best shot to retake the White House even as he faces another criminal indictment.
“The 2024 election is our last shot to save America, and there’s only one candidate, and you know who that candidate is,” the former president said Friday at the Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, a gathering of Republicans in early-voting Iowa that brought together much of the 2024 field, including his chief rival for the nomination Ron DeSantis.
Trump, the final speaker of the night, entered to a standing ovation, and in his speech listed the accomplishments from his term, including renegotiating a trade deal with Mexico and Canada and appointing three justices to the Supreme Court cementing a conservative majority that repealed Roe v. Wade.
Trump rattled off a series of polling numbers that showed him beating President Joe Biden and highlighted his wide lead in early-voting states.
“While DeSanctous is losing to Biden in all cases, I wouldn’t take a chance on that one,” Trump said, delivering a jab at his second-place challenger.
The dinner was the first time Trump and DeSantis were in the same venue in Iowa since the governor entered the race as a less polarizing alternative to the former president.
But DeSantis has struggled to chip away at Trump’s lead, with the RealClearPolitics average of polls showing him trailing by 34 percentage points. DeSantis, who spoke earlier at the event, avoided mentioning Trump, instead touting his record as Florida governor.
Trump’s appearance at the event comes at a critical time in his campaign, with the former president bracing for yet another indictment, this time in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s probe into the aftermath of the 2020 election and the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“If I weren’t running, I would have nobody coming after me,” said Trump, who mentioned the cases only briefly.
His polling and fundraising have spiked after prior indictments as his fervent base and prominent Republicans have rallied to his support. But it’s unclear if more charges will provide similar momentum.
At Friday’s dinner, former US Representative Will Hurd of Texas was the only candidate to directly criticize Trump, urging Republicans to move past the party standard-bearer.
“Donald Trump is running to stay out of prison,” Hurd said to loud boos from the audience.
Trump has been indicted in a federal case over his handling of classified documents and in New York state court where he faces charges over alleged hush money payments to an adult film star.
Trump on Thursday was hit with new obstruction charges in the criminal case over classified documents, including allegations that he and two employees tried to delete surveillance footage at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
Read more: Trump Faces New Charges Over Footage in Mar-a-Lago Probe