In a bid to fortify his position in Iowa, former President Trump is intensifying his campaign efforts with only 100 days remaining until the state’s pivotal caucuses.
This weekend, Trump returns to Iowa, signaling a strategic focus on the state, as he joins several contenders who see Iowa as crucial to their campaigns.
Trump will mark the 100-day countdown with a gathering in Waterloo on Saturday, aiming to maintain his significant but not guaranteed lead in the race.
Republican strategist Doug Gross commented on Trump’s standing, saying, “It’s obviously Trump’s to lose.” He noted Trump’s strong and fervent base in Iowa, a state where such support is both an advantage and a challenge due to heightened expectations.
For months, Trump has been leading the Republican nomination race, widening the gap against his main rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has recently experienced a slump in polls. Nationally and in early-voting states, Trump leads by over 30 points in most surveys.
However, Trump’s lead in Iowa is narrower than his national advantage, suggesting Iowa could be a critical battleground for his opponents to challenge his dominance.
Political experts emphasize the high expectations set for Trump in Iowa, while other candidates view the state as a chance to boost their campaigns.
Recently, Trump has been more active in Iowa, where he is scheduled to appear with two state representatives on Saturday.
A new Iowa-focused website launched by Trump features a countdown to the caucuses and instructions for supporters to engage in the January 15 vote.
In a video message on the website, Trump urges his supporters, “I need all of my supporters to make sure you’re registered Republicans in order to participate in this incredible Iowa tradition.”
Trump emphasizes the significance of the caucuses, saying, “The caucuses are one night only, just one night. Turn around our country.”
Gross, Iowa’s 2002 Republican gubernatorial nominee, notes Trump’s strategic team is keenly aware of the high stakes. He suggests that failing to meet expectations in Iowa, even with a win, could dramatically alter Trump’s prospects.
“There’s plenty of downside for Donald Trump in Iowa,” Gross remarks, highlighting Iowa as potentially Trump’s most vulnerable spot currently.
Winning Iowa might not suffice for Trump; he needs a decisive lead to impress, Gross suggests.
Other candidates are increasingly focusing on Iowa, which historically influences the nomination race.
Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political science associate professor, notes Iowa’s role in distinguishing serious contenders, saying, “Iowa isn’t the kingmaker, but we separate the contenders from the pretenders, and it’s where the field will narrow a lot.”
DeSantis, in particular, is heavily invested in Iowa, planning to visit all 99 counties by October’s end, and relocating a significant portion of his campaign staff to the state.
The super PAC supporting DeSantis has appointed local chairs across Iowa, underlining its commitment to the state.
Despite trailing Trump in Iowa, DeSantis seems better positioned there than in New Hampshire or South Carolina. In New Hampshire, Nikki Haley, a former United Nations Ambassador, is outpacing DeSantis, while South Carolina presents additional challenges with Haley and Senator Tim Scott as competitors.
Hagle underscores Iowa’s amplified significance, especially for DeSantis, suggesting that failing to halt Trump in Iowa might mean an unstoppable Trump in subsequent states.
Former Vice President Mike Pence is also targeting Iowa’s religious conservative voters. His supporting super PAC, Committed to America PAC, has engaged extensively with voters, complementing Pence’s own visits and events in the state.
Senator Scott, similarly targeting evangelical voters, made a recent Iowa visit.
Barbara Hames-Bryant, president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women, observes robust competition in Iowa despite Trump’s polling lead. She mentions entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy’s significant presence in the state.
Hames-Bryant points out the high stakes in Iowa, given Trump’s former presidency and incumbent-like status.
Iowa’s caucuses, requiring more participant commitment than primaries, could benefit from Trump’s fervent support base, Hames-Bryant suggests. However, she notes a strong desire among many for an alternative nominee.
Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University, highlights Iowa’s unique expectation of personal candidate engagement, making the caucuses a distinctly intimate political affair.