Trump is poised to dominate the Iowa caucuses despite barely campaigning there

(Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

Trump is poised to dominate the Iowa caucuses despite barely campaigning there

Election 2024

Ziema Mehta

Dec. 18, 2023

The usual path to victory in the Iowa caucuses comes first


The nation’s presidential primary contest includes meeting voters in cozy living rooms and greasy pizza farms, marching in small-town parades and flipping pork chops at the Iowa State Fair.

all this time

answering endless questions about immigration policy, abortion and ethanol subsidies.

Former President Trump did none of that. He has held a handful of rallies and avoided being polled by voters for a small portion of the time his 2024 Republican presidential rivals were in the state. Yet he holds a seemingly insurmountable lead in every recent poll of Iowa Republicans, a reflection of his unique status as both a universally known figure and a former president.

He is the most famous person in the world. He’s a celebrity, said David Kochel, a former GOP operative who advised the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. He is never obliged to play by the same rules as everyone else.

And yet Trump’s strategy still carries risks. He lost the 2016 caucuses to the lesser known but better organized


Senator Ted Cruz, and as former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley or the Governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis is capable of causing an upset on January 15 or even outperforming the polls and coming in second place. Former President Trump’s supporters will have reason to question his political decision-making. And that could impact the nominating contests in New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond.

Although the former president does not hold town halls or answer voters’ questions, Kochel argued that Trump is running a quasi-incumbent campaign and has a much better organized ground game to drive his supporters to the caucuses than he did in 2016.

His team can do significantly more without him, Kochel said, adding that he couldn’t imagine another candidate replicating Trump’s dominance in the state with such minimal personal effort. He is a special political actor. Trump is Trump. He is unique. He’s a unicorn.

As of Wednesday


Trump had held 16 events in the state during this

the period 2023-2024

presidential contest, according to the Des Moines Register candidate tracker.

DeSantis visited voters in 99 counties in each of the states, completing the survey


ull Grassley, a term

taken from

old Iowa Sen.

Charles E.

Grassley travels every year. Haley has held more than 50 events across the state, and entrepreneur and

small chance

Vivek Ramaswamy did that


more than

DeSantis and Haley

combined, the register said.

Trump’s rivals and


allies have pointed out

the candidates’

efforts to meet with Iowans across the state are one reason


should support them instead of the former president.

“Gov. DeSantis was the only candidate who committed to going to all 99 counties,” according to the popular Iowa newspaper.


Gov. Kim Reynolds told her Florida counterpart

s supporters at the Thunderdome earlier this month

restaurant and

event center in Newton, near Des Moines. “Today we can celebrate making good on that promise, here in Jasper County! No



it looks like it has multiple restaurants/sw

DeSantis, whose appeal to Iowans includes a promise to move the federal Department of Agriculture to the state, also highlighted his storms in Iowa.

“The fact that I am willing to do this should demonstrate that I consider myself a servant and not a ruler,” DeSantis said. “That’s how people who get elected should view themselves.”

This personal pitch, which in previous caucuses has made the difference between well-funded and well-known politicians and lame-duck candidates who put in the time and effort to meet Iowans on their home turf, appears to have made no difference this time at least

so far in the polls


Trump leads his Republican rivals by more than 30


points, according to a



of Iowa

polls. Are

the average lead in national polls is even higher


Many political experts

to have

predicted the anti-Trump GOP would vote

want to

consolidate as the field


. Instead, Trump’s power has increased.

The former president


the support of 51% of probably


Republican caucus participants


a survey published last week


that was conducted by a venerable Iowa pollster for the Register, NBC News and Mediacom. Trump’s status grew

8 percent

points from a similar poll in October.

Earlier this month he crowed about the overflowing crowds

of people

his events compared

with the numbers coming out

its rivals.

We have an incredible crowd in Iowa, Trump told about 900 supporters at an event hosted by Fox News host Sean Hannity in Davenport. Other candidates have seven people standing on a farm and they’re talking, he said. Especially for me it is a lot of fun to watch. I enjoy watching that.

Still, Trump is urging his supporters to come to the caucus.

We have to put up big numbers, very big numbers, he said Wednesday during a meeting in the ballroom of a hotel in Coralville. We are leading the way with many things


but you have to vote. That margin of victory is so, so powerful.

Trump can win overwhelming support in Iowa without extensive campaigning because his base is “not concerned about policy,” said Tim Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa.


The charges facing the former president only deepen his most ardent fans’ affection for him, Hagle added.

“Many of his supporters believe he is a victim of political persecution,” he said. “They let the rest go and said:


Maybe he doesn’t do the work, but we love him.

If Trump is to dominate the actual caucuses as dramatically as he has, the polls will require these supporters to turn out for the state’s in-person nominating contest on what is often


blisteringly cold, snowy winter night.

Never give up,


great SUIT


DeSantis has a major facility in Iowa and has transferred staff there from California. Haley’s supporters acknowledge she has a smaller team but are optimistic that a recent endorsement from Americans For Prosperity, a well-funded conservative nonprofit with staff in Iowa, will reduce DeSantis’ organizational lead.

Trump remains the wild card. His national presidential campaign is in every way more professional and organized than in 2016, and includes detailed data on the former president’s supporters in the state.

Recent events have featured videos explaining how to conduct meetings

were played

while volunteers gather


commit to caucus cards

signed by

attendees. Other Trump supporters contact likely supporters by phone or knock on their doors.

The caucuses are all about organization. But Trump defies most logic even though he has an overwhelming media presence, said Doug Gross, a prominent Republican attorney in Des Moines who recently endorsed Haley.

The people who support Trump when they are not told to go to the caucus on a certain night


They stay at the bar,” Gross added. ‘He must have an organization.


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