Many Republican leaders in swing states are split or lukewarm on supporting their nominee for president. Not so in Iowa where Republicans have taken over many of the state’s top state and federal elected posts. All of the state’s top elected Republicans have announced they are supporting Donald Trump for president, and the Republican National Committee has made Iowa one of its priorities in November’s election.
Go to a Donald Trump rally here in Iowa and you’ll likely see one of the state’s top Republicans as an opening speaker. From U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley to Governor Terry Branstad. In fact, Branstad’s son -- Eric Branstad -- is managing Trump’s’ Iowa effort. And Branstad’s lieutenant governor, Kim Reynolds, stood with a group of women in front of the Iowa State Capitol on the day after Trump unveiled his childcare plan:
“I believe the Trump/Pence ticket is the team that can turn this country around, improve the lives of Americans and Iowans and especially those of women,” Reynolds shouted to a group of reporters.
She’s singing a much different tune about Trump than she did a year ago when he was still trying to fend off 16 other presidential hopefuls in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. Reynolds had said comments Trump made about then-competitor Carly Fironia’s face were unacceptable.
“I don’t find it acceptable in politics. I don’t find it acceptable in business,” Reynolds said back in 2015. “I don’t find it acceptable anywhere.”
It’s a general election and Republicans here don’t want to relive 2012 when President Obama won Iowa for the second time. So, every one of Iowa’s top Republicans have fallen in line. That mirrors a push by the Republican National Committee, which is targeting the state and flooding it with technology and troops.
“One of those things that had to change was our ground game and our data,” says Lindsay Jancek, with the RNC. “And so, we invested a lot of money in a state of the art data drive operation across the country and especially in key battleground states like here in Iowa.”
On this day, field organizer Jillian Dunker is knocking doors in the Des Moines suburb of Clive. When door knockers leave a house they pull out their smartphones.
An app they have is tricked out with GPS and voter information and they’re not just targeting Republicans. They’re going after soft Democrats and independents.
Republicans have more registered voters than Democrats here, but there’s more no-party voters than either.
Dunker is canvassing with Bill Simonis who was once a Democrat. This retired Human Resources professional has never voted for a Republican before.
He says he hasn’t been pleased with the Democratic Party, specifically President Obama. Simonis caucused for Trump and says the businessman has the experience to straighten out Washington.
“He has such an ego,” Simonis says. “He is not going to want his legacy to fail."
Iowa Republicans have started playing more like Democrats in pushing early voting. Behind one door, a woman says she’s voting for the Republican candidate for Senate and Congress. But she still does NOT know how she’ll vote for president. The campaign will be back to her door. Behind another door, a woman politely tells the canvassers to leave.
All this information is filling in a gap in the Trump campaign Republicans spotted in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses.
“They didn’t have field offices, they weren’t sending out people to knock on doors, the way they were trying to organize this state,” University of Northern Iowa political scientist Donna Hoffman says. “If you can even call it that was very untraditional.”
So, with a non-traditional firebrand presidential candidate, the party has a unified front and nuts-and-bolts support in the effort to win this state that’s gone Democratic in six of the last seven elections.