HomePoliticsFor Trump and his potential Republican rivals in 2024, it's all about...

For Trump and his potential Republican rivals in 2024, it’s all about Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa — Donald Trump was in Iowa on Monday. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida made his first visit last week. Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina have made recent trips. And on Saturday, former Vice President Mike Pence will speak.

Even when the Democrats have chosen to snub Iowa in 2024, the state has never been more important to Republicans in the race for the presidential nomination. For a Republican, he has acquired a sense of life and death: the first real-world test of Trump’s strength or vulnerability.

No former president has sought to recapture the White House in modern times. A loss or even an unconvincing victory for Trump in the state caucuses, the opening contest for Republicans early next year, would signal a near-fatal weakness for his campaign, according to Republican strategists in and out of state. . For that reason, both his rivals and Trump himself are paying special attention to Iowa.

“I don’t see a formula where Trump loses Iowa and it doesn’t really hurt him or his chances as a candidate,” said Terry Sullivan, who managed Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Although Trump easily carried Iowa in the 2016 and 2020 general elections, Republican activists in the state said he was not assured of a 2024 caucus victory, though he remains the favorite.

last week, a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Survey found that Trump’s appeal was eroding: If he is the nominee in 2024, only 47 percent of Iowa Republicans would definitely support him in the general election. That was a double-digit decline from the 69 percent in 2021 he said he would definitely support.

“For the former president, winning the Iowa caucuses is everything,” said Bob Vander Plaats, an influential leader of the state’s evangelical voters. “If he loses, it’s ‘game’ for the nomination” for everyone else, he said. “If he wins the Iowa caucuses, no one will stop him.”

After Democrats decided that Iowa’s rural, almost all-white population was unrepresentative and substituted South Carolina as the starting state for their 2024 primary, Republicans are embracing the state’s traditional role as a testing ground.

The Trump campaign has hired experienced state leaders and plans to build an Iowa caucus infrastructure that signals its desire for a repeat of 2016, when Trump was shocked by finishing second in the caucuses.

Back then, the politically inexperienced reality star believed that the large crowds at his rallies would easily translate into a surge of caucus attendees. Instead, he lost to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Mr. Trump was so angry that he flew out of Iowa without thanking his local staff, baseless tweeting later that Cruz had won by “fraud,” a preview of his approach after losing re-election in 2020.

Trump aides said they did not intend to repeat the mistakes of 2016. “We have a serious political operation in the state of Iowa, led and coordinated by extraordinarily competent professionals who know what they are doing,” said Chris LaCivita, a senior Trump campaign advisory position. “We’re doing that because, one, we’re serious, and two, we’re in it to win it.”

Trump hired as his state director Marshall Moreau, who led the upset victory last year for the Iowa Republican attorney general. He also hired as his director of early voting states Alex Latchman, former political director of the Iowa Republican Party. Mr. Latchman witnessed Trump’s clumsy effort up close in 2016.

“We have the benefit of learning from that lesson,” Latchman said.

Unlike a primary election, a caucus is a low-turnout gathering that requires voters to brave a usually cold winter night for hours of speaking and voting in their local precincts.

In 2016, Mr. Trump’s Iowa staff members, including a former “Apprentice” contestant, signed up volunteer organizers but couldn’t teach them how to reach caucus attendees or even provide literature to drop off at their doors. Trump’s suburban Des Moines headquarters was dark many nights when the rivals had dozens of volunteers working the phones.

Trump’s advisers said things would work differently this time. They pointed to Trump’s first visit to Iowa on Monday as a 2024 candidate. The campaign said it was tracking the names and emails of thousands of people who registered to attend and filled the packed 2,400-capacity hall, in Davenport, Iowa.

How Times reporters cover politics. We trust our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members can vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for political candidates or causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money or raising money for any political candidate or electoral cause.

“The real work of the campaign starts when the president arrives,” Latchman said. “We are going to continue to engage these people consistently every day through February.”

Trump has also bowed to campaign traditions he once eschewed. At his appearance in Davenport, took unscripted questions from the public for 20 minutes. Before the rally, she made an unannounced visit to a Machine Shed restaurant, a popular Iowa chain.

One of Trump’s rivals, Ms. Haley, a former United Nations ambassador in the Trump administration, has visited Iowa twice since entering the race last month, and on both visits she extensively engaged voters, relying on the one-on-one campaign style that helped her win election as governor of South Carolina.

Walk-ins to restaurants are one not-so-subtle way Trump’s 2024 advisers are aiming to draw a contrast to his likely main rival, DeSantis, who is battling a reputation for indifference.

“In the past, big rallies have worked,” said LaCivita, a senior adviser to Trump. “It’s definitely a different campaign than 2016. It’s a different time. We’re going to do a mix of retail politics and large-scale rallies.”

A Republican national strategist, Kyle Plotkin, took a contrary view on the importance of Iowa to Trump, noting that even if he lost there, his staunch supporters, about 30 percent of Republicans. in national surveys — would be enough for him to prevail in a field of challengers dividing opposition votes.

Iowa Republican Party activists said Trump maintained a fervent fan base, but many Republicans were open to an alternative, especially one they considered more eligible.

“I think Trump is the favorite, but I wouldn’t say he’s in the bag,” said Steve Scheffler, one of two members of the Iowa Republican National Committee.

Gloria Mazza, the Republican chairwoman in Polk County, the state’s largest county, said of the Republican base: “Are you looking for someone else? They might be.”

And Vander Plaats, the leader of evangelical voters, who make up a large Republican bloc in Iowa, said many were open to an alternative to Trump. “My fear, along with the fears of many other people, is that we are concerned about how largely the United States has made up its mind about Donald Trump,” he said. “I think it’s time to get behind the next leader who can win in 2024.”

Vander Plaats said evangelicals hadn’t forgotten that Trump blamed the lopsided Republican losses in the 2022 midterms on candidates focusing too much on the “abortion issue.”

“He showed a character thing with Trump that he blamed on the pro-life movement,” Vander Plaats said. “If you’re trying to win the Iowa caucuses, I wouldn’t put that base under the bus.”

If Mr. Pence enters the race, as is widely expected, the Trump campaign could have trouble reducing the former vice president’s appeal among evangelical voters. And Mr. Pence may adopt a strategy of camping out in Iowa, spending most of his time in the state to make a strong caucus appearance.

“Mike Pence would do very well in Iowa,” said Rick Tyler, one of Cruz’s top advisers in 2016. “I don’t think Trump has a chance in Iowa this time around because he’s so offended with the evangelical base.”

maggie haberman contributed reporting.

Source link

- Advertisment -