Candidates Hope to Get Hot in Frozen Iowa Caucuses
The American Conservative spoke to sources currently on the ground in Iowa about what to expect from tonight’s results.
The former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, still in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is polling at just 0.8 percent in Iowa. Nevertheless, old Asa’s polling numbers are outperforming the temperature in the Hawkeye state as Iowans prepare to caucus.
The high on Monday afternoon in the warmest part of Iowa, in the southeastern corner of the state, was 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the frigid temperatures, candidates such as Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Governor Nimarata “Nikki” Haley are hoping to get hot. As for former President Donald Trump, the heavy favorite currently leading in the Iowa polls by over 30 percent, he’s hoping to prove the GOP primary process is but a formality. Unlike Democrats, Republicans are at least trying to keep up the appearance that their voters have a say in who tops the party’s ticket. The American Conservative spoke to sources currently on the ground in Iowa about what to expect from tonight’s results.
Matthew Foldi, a reporter for the Spectator, spoke to TAC from the media filing center in Des Moines, Iowa fresh off an interview with former 2024 candidate and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.
“He said he came down here to escape the cold,” Foldi said. “It’s cold outside, but if this is what you live and breathe, this is a winter day with a lot of snow.”
“Caucusing is an indoor activity,” Foldi, paraphrasing what Burgum told him, said. “All you need to do is drive like you normally do in the cold and winter in Iowa, park in a parking lot, and walk indoors.”
“Everyone in Iowa is going about their normal lives—today, yesterday, tomorrow—in the cold,” Foldi continued. Going to the caucuses tonight is no different than going to the grocery store or dropping the kids off at school. “Iowans take their caucus incredibly seriously. This is the Super Bowl of Iowa, except it’s only every four years. Sometimes it’s only every eight years. They take it extra seriously here, so I think that the weather today is not going to be a serious hindrance.”
Foldi said the people he’s spoken to around the Des Moines area don’t believe the cold will majorly impact turnout. “The people who are having the biggest problems with the Iowa weather are the journalists and campaign operatives who don’t live here who are angry that it’s cold outside, not the voters of Iowa.”
Luke Posegate, an Iowa native caucusing tonight for DeSantis, also spoke to TAC from Iowa. He thinks the weather might have an impact on turnout, “especially in rural areas where people have to drive further to get to their caucus location, I think you could see certainly a decrease from the 2016 cycle,” Posegate said. He added that he’s heard from friends that “there are some places that haven’t got a snow removal service out there yet.”
Tonight, Posegate will not only be caucusing for DeSantis, he’ll be delivering a speech on behalf of DeSantis’s candidacy. A little before 7 p.m. local time, Posegate will arrive at Summit Middle School in Johnston, Iowa, a suburb of the Des Moines area in Polk county where Posegate currently resides. In his speech tonight, Posegate told TAC his “key points are going to be that DeSantis is the most conservative candidate, he’s delivered the most on his promises, and he’s someone that can be really a unifying figure for the party and the nation who can serve two full terms.”
So much of the fallout from the caucus Tuesday hinge on the expectations surrounding each campaign. “So much of this is sort of arbitrary expectations, which is an ephemeral and meaningless term,” Foldi told TAC. “If Trump gets 49 percent, is that that much weaker than if he got 51.2 percent? I don’t think so, but a lot of significance is going to be ascribed to the final percentages.”
For Trump, never one for understatement, is confident he’ll blow his opponents out of the water or, even better, out of the race. “Nikki just said on Fox & Friends that she’s up in the polls, but I’m beating her by 57 points. What’s up?” Trump asked rhetorically on Truth Social. Nevertheless, as he did in 2016, Trump is telling his voters to “be on the lookout for dirty tricks.”
“If he does really poorly, I think that’s a floor because when we head to Super Tuesday, the map just explodes in the entire country, and I think having been president for four years is going to be a huge advantage for him,” Foldi told TAC. But even for the pseudo-incumbent president, name ID isn’t everything. In Iowa, ground game matters. “The general professionalization of the Trump campaign in 2024, in contrast with a more haphazard version towards the start of 2016, is probably going to be the difference between a small Trump victory and a large Trump victory,” Foldi said.
Haley, for her part, has increased her share in the polls. Many polls have the former South Carolina governor running second in Iowa. But this late break in the polls for Haley is a double-edged sword: If Haley places third after rising to second in the polls, her campaign’s work to manage expectations in Iowa will be for nought. Some will question her campaign’s decision to pour money into Iowa late to destabilize DeSantis’s efforts.
Nevertheless, Foldi said that he had spoken to a well-connected Iowa political veteran unaffiliated with any of the candidates’ campaigns that told him that “he has been the most blown away with Nikki Haley’s campaign from just a pure organizational standpoint.” Not only in relative terms, since Haley’s main play has been for New Hampshire, but in absolute terms.
Posegate, though biased, believes DeSantis’s operation is poised to perform well. “Iowa is a place where having a strong what they call ground game really matters. We’ve got people knocking doors, we’ve got people making phone calls,” Posegate said. “People tell me the operation that the DeSantis campaign has built is better than when Ted Cruz won in 2016.”
As for the Haley campaign, Posegate said, “I haven’t seen a single yard sign yet for Nikki Haley. I don’t personally know anyone who’s planning on caucusing for Nikki Haley.”
Which candidates’ ground game will trudge through the snow or slip and fall on the ice in Iowa? The nation will find out soon enough.
The post Candidates Hope to Get Hot in Frozen Iowa Caucuses appeared first on The American Conservative.