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Trump Hosts Rally In Des Moines Four Days Ahead Of Iowa Caucuses

Clay Masters
IPR file
President Donald Trump during a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa on October 9, 2018.

President Donald Trump is holding a rally Thursday in Iowa, just four days before the state’s caucuses. Trump faces no significant threat from within his party but his campaign has been quietly working in the state. The rally is part of Trump’s efforts to counter program the Democratic candidates. 

Four years ago President Donald Trump came in second in the Iowa caucuses behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

“I was told by everybody. Do not go to Iowa. You could never finish even in the top 10 and I said I have friends in Iowa. I know a lot of people in Iowa. I think they’ll really like me,” he said in 2016.

After he became the nominee, GOP leaders here decided they really did like Trump. Among those who embraced him was Jeff Kaufmann. 

“What you see now is really an extension of 2016,” Kauffmann says. He was the Republican state party chair then and is still in that role.

The Trump campaign is putting many resources into Iowa in addition to Thursday’s rally.

They’re sending some 80-surrogates on Caucus Day on Trump’s behalf to talk to local and national media, including acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to his once Iowa caucus rival and now HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

Kaufmann says the state party has been working closely with the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign.

“All of that is part of this coordinated effort to not just re-elect the president but also help all GOP candidates on down the line,” he says.

Credit Clay Masters / IPR
Former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh campaigns in Polk City, Iowa on January 24, 2020. Walsh says he isn't getting a fair shake in Iowa but says "at least they haven't cancelled the (Republican) caucuses."

But there are some Republicans campaigning against Trump here in Iowa – like Joe Walsh.

“They’ve tried to make it so difficult or me to compete. I want to surprise him in Iowa. I would be honored and blown away by anybody who wanted to caucus for me in Iowa on Feb. 3.” Walsh said speaking to a handful of people at a farm on a recent snowy afternoon in Polk City.

Other early states like Nevada and South Carolina have both called off their Republican nominating contests. So, Walsh, a former Illinois Congressman and talk radio host is trying to spread his message to Republicans here.

“And the message is clear: I’m a conservative. But I’m not mean, cruel, ugly, bigoted and chaotic like Trump,” he says.

But polls show Trump enjoys widespread popularity among Republican voters here in Iowa.

And Marc Lotter with the Trump campaign says they’re focus is on winning the general election in November. 

“It’s good to remind people that whichever of them comes out of this mess that they call a primary you get to get into the ring with Donald Trump so we’re just making sure folks know we’re still here,” says Lotter.

David Peterson, a political science professor at Iowa State University says the president is also working to counteract a year’s worth of ads here from Democrats who have attacked his record.

“All the attention they’re going to have and all the surrogates they’re going to have – are opportunities for him to remind Republicans or to remind Trump-leaning independents what they like about the president,” Peterson explains.

Trump will likely remind rally-goers Thursday in Iowa that he beat Hillary Clinton by 9 points in this state that twice voted for Barack Obama.

An overwhelming victory for Trump on caucus night will send a strong message out of Iowa, which both parties here still consider a swing state.