Politics

Presidential candidates make their final bid for Iowans to brave the cold ahead of caucus night

Temperatures reached -16 degrees Fahrenheit in Iowa Sunday as presidential candidates rallied to encourage supporters to make it to their precinct caucus locations Monday night.

Blizzards and wind chill have created dangerous conditions in the first-in-the-nation state in the days before the 2024 Iowa Republican caucuses, the first contest on the road to the Republican presidential nomination. Though presidential candidates including former President Donald Trump, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are all in Iowa, they have all had to shift their weekend schedules in light of the harsh weather.

Trump moved three of his four planned events in Iowa this weekend online, hosting tele-rallies with Iowa endorsers including state Attorney General Brenna Bird and state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann. The former president held one in-person rally in Indianola Sunday, where he spoke for almost two hours, attacking his opponents for the nomination and criticizing President Joe Biden’s time in office.

Trump has been the consistent frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. The latest Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll released Saturday found him leading in Iowa with 48% of likely GOP caucusgoers’ support, ahead of Haley at 20% and DeSantis at 16%. Trump criticized the news organizations that focused on Haley “surging” ahead of DeSantis in the Iowa Poll — saying that news narratives are trying to undercut his popularity.

“Headline: Haley surges, Trump’s doing okay too,” he said. “Since the beginning, they’ve been throwing everything at us, the never-ending schemes … It’s hoaxes, it’s witch hunts, it’s lies and horrendous abuses of power.”

Trump criticized both Haley and DeSantis for competing against him, decrying “the lack of loyalty in politics now.” He pointed to his decision to appoint Haley to serve as ambassador to the United Nations under his administration, though Trump claimed his decision was largely to motivated by him wanting then-Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster to take over as governor of South Carolina from Haley.

“Henry’s done a great job, and Nikki did a good job, she was okay,” Trump said. “But she’s not ready to be president. I know her very well. Wrong, the wrong thought process, the wrong policy — And honestly, she’s not tough enough.”

He also repeated his disapproval of DeSantis’ decision to run against him despite Trump’s endorsement of his gubernatorial campaigns — as well as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ decision to endorse him. He said he gave Reynolds “everything,” referencing his decision to support keeping the Iowa Republican caucuses first in the nation, supporting ethanol mandates as president and opening up the governorship by appointing former Gov. Terry Branstad as U.S. ambassador to China.

“I don’t do quid pro quo,” he said. “But when I came in and I announced, I said, ‘By the way, are you going to be an endorsement?’ ‘Sir, I’d rather remain neutral.’ I said, Wow, you’re going to remain neutral. I gave you the position — Not that one thing has to do with the other, but I gave you that.’”

Governor Doug Burgum at a podium next to Donald Trump
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who also ran as a Republican presidential candidate in 2024, endorsed former President Donald Trump as he and his wife, Kathryn, joined the former president at a rally in Indianola Jan. 14, 2024.  (Screen shot courtesy of C-SPAN)

Though he criticized the “disloyalty” of governors not supporting his presidential bid, Trump welcomed the support of North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who ended his 2024 Republican presidential campaign in December. Burgum spoke in support of Trump at the Indianola event. He said Trump was a friend to states like North Dakota and Iowa in the White House “who understood us and who wanted to see our states succeed, versus being regulated out of business.”

“Under President Trump, America was safe and prosperous, and tomorrow when you caucus, you have an opportunity to send a message to the nation and send a message to the world,” Burgum said. “Donald J. Trump will make America great again.”

Burgum was not the only Republican to make a last minute endorsement. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio also endorsed Trump Sunday, while former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced his support for Haley.

Throughout his speech, the former president emphasized the need for Iowans to go out and caucus Monday night. While he said he would “like it to be a little bit warmer” in Iowa, that the harsh weather showed the conviction of his supporters in Iowa, with more than 500 people showing up to his Indianola event.

“You’re going to be first in the nation,” he told the crowd. “So brave the weather and go out and save America, because that’s what you’re doing. This is really about saving our country.”

Haley campaigns in Ames

An hour north, Haley held a campaign event in Ames — also moving earlier events scheduled for Sunday online due to the winter conditions. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa introduced Haley at the event. Though she has not endorsed the former ambassador, Ernst said that Haley has been an “inspiring” figure to people across Iowa and has motivated people to support her bid for the White House.

In the most recent Iowa Poll, Haley moved ahead of DeSantis, who has long held the second place position behind Trump. But the poll also showed that people planning to caucus for Haley were less enthusiastic than Trump and DeSantis supporters — potentially troubling factors as the Iowa Republican caucuses require in-person participation at 7 p.m. on caucus night.

The poll also found that a greater number of people who identify as Democrats and independents support Haley compared to the other top candidates. Voters from other parties can register as Republicans at their caucus in order to participate.

In her final day on the Iowa caucus trail, Haley joked that she has been telling Iowans is was cold at events as early as October.

“And y’all would laugh at me, right, you would laugh, like that,” she said as the crowd laughed again. “Now, I get it. I get why you were laughing at me because this is truly cold. But we’re gonna keep on going anywhere and everywhere, we’re gonna go all the way until the last hour. Because we know the situation we’re in.”

The former ambassador shared her policy positions on issues from U.S. support for Ukraine to prohibiting transgender women from competing in women’s sports. She largely stayed away from bringing up polling numbers or criticizing her rival Republican candidates, but brought up polls that show her beating Biden in the general election while DeSantis loses and Trump is within the margin of error of winning.

She repeated her calls for Republicans to move on from Trump.

“I think President Trump was the right president at the right time,” Haley said. “I agree with a lot of his policies. But rightly or wrongly, chaos follows him. Chaos follows him, and we can’t be a country in disarray and in a world on fire and go through four more years of chaos.”

DeSantis dismisses polls

DeSantis held three events in Iowa Sunday with Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting his campaign, missing a planned stop in Sioux City. In a rally with supporters and volunteers in West Des Moines Saturday, DeSantis said his backers were ready to win the the Iowa caucuses and show the country that they were ready for new leadership.

In a CNN interview Sunday morning, DeSantis dismissed the poll results showing Trump and Haley ahead, pointing to the 2016 January Iowa Poll showing Trump in the lead when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz ended up winning that year’s Iowa Republican caucuses. He also said the passion his supporters have for his campaign could be a deciding factor in what’s predicted to be the coldest Iowa caucus night in history.

“Our voters are very motivated,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “We have spent a lot of time in Iowa because we’ve gone door-to-door getting people to commit to caucus to us. We’ve got a huge number of people that have committed to caucus, and we expect to these are the people that turn out.”

DeSantis also said that regardless of caucus night results, his campaign plans to head to campaign in South Carolina after Iowa, a potential place to undercut Haley in her home state, according to Politico. DeSantis criticized Haley for not participating in the Nevada GOP caucuses alongside himself and Trump — instead opting to appear as a candidate in the state Republican primary.

“My view would be if you’re in it to win it, you got to compete for every single delegate,” he said on CNN. “… You got to be out there. So yeah, we’re gonna be out there, winning delegates in Nevada as well.”

(Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: [email protected]. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.)

This article in this post was originally published on Tennessee Lookout and parts of it are included here under a Creative Commons license CC BY-ND 4.0

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