U.S Election

Trump-dominated Iowa race barrels to contentious finish in frigid weather

Author: Marianne LeVine, Maeve Reston, Dylan Wells and Meryl Kornfield Source: The Washington Post
January 15, 2024 at 05:58
Screenshot 2024 01 15 060558
Screenshot 2024 01 15 060558

Haley has experienced some momentum going into Monday. She centered her pitch on the notion that she has a better chance of beating Biden in November.
Republican presidential candidates trudged through blistering subzero temperatures in Iowa on Sunday to deliver closing arguments ahead of Monday’s long-awaited caucuses — the first nominating contest in an election year shaping up as a test of starkly competing political visions and American democracy.

Donald Trump, the clear Republican polling leader, offered a grievance-laden and defiant closing pitch in suburban Des Moines in which he lashed out at his main rivals as disloyal, derided the state’s Republican governor and made slashing attacks on his critics. Speaking at one of his few in-person events in the final stretch, he warned his supporters against complacency on what is forecast to be a bitterly cold caucus night.

Nikki Haley, looking to secure a surprise second-place finish that would cement her spot as the clear Trump alternative, hit the trail in the backroom of a barbecue joint in the college town of Ames as she tried to make the case that she has the best chance to win a general election. The former U.N. ambassador made only a brief reference to Trump, reprising her assertion that “chaos follows him,” as she made a more traditional conservative pitch for muscular foreign policy and fiscal restraint.

And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), fighting for his political survival, argued that he would bring the same political and policy results he produced in Florida to the nation, and he suggested he was the only one in the race fighting for conservative voters’ issues.

The competing appearances across a frigid landscape heralded the end of months of campaigning in a Republican race that has been remarkably static, with Trump at the top and little indication that he is in any serious jeopardy of being dislodged. Monday night’s caucuses, which polls show Trump is poised to win handily, will offer the first electoral test of Trump’s appeal to his party.

“It’s like there’s two things going on: There’s Donald Trump. He’s a former president running for the nomination again. He’s been in control the whole time,” Iowa GOP strategist Craig Robinson said. “And there’s been this secondary contest of who can be the alternative to Trump. And that’s what Iowa is going to figure out.”
 

Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley speaks to supporters during a campaign event at a Jethro's BBQ. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley speaks to supporters during a campaign event at a Jethro's BBQ. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis makes a campaign stop at the Chrome Horse Saloon on Sunday in Cedar Rapids. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis makes a campaign stop at the Chrome Horse Saloon on Sunday in Cedar Rapids. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

The caucuses also represent the unofficial start of an arduous election year that could feature a contentious matchup between a former president under four criminal indictments who has campaigned on themes some regard as more extreme than his first term’s, and a current president dogged by low approval ratings.

For months, the race in Iowa has remained relatively stagnant at the top, with Trump leading in the polls by double digits, including in the final Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom poll. But the survey found Haley surpassing DeSantis for the first time.

Yet it also had some warning signs for Haley, finding that a 61 percent majority of her supporters are “mildly enthusiastic” or “not that enthusiastic” about turning out. Pollster J. Ann Selzer told the Des Moines Register that the data suggests “she looks stronger in the poll than she could on caucus night.”

Trump’s campaign is hoping for a knockout blow in Iowa that will set a formidable tone heading into New Hampshire’s primary eight days later. Sunday’s event in Indianola marked his first in-person campaign event in the state since last weekend — a contrast with Haley and DeSantis, who have held a number of events throughout the week. Trump was originally set to hold back-to-back events on Saturday but canceled, citing Iowa’s weather. He opted for a tele-rally with Attorney General Brenna Bird (R) instead.

For months, the race in Iowa has remained relatively stagnant at the top, with Trump leading in the polls by double digits, including in the final Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom poll. But the survey found Haley surpassing DeSantis for the first time.

Yet it also had some warning signs for Haley, finding that a 61 percent majority of her supporters are “mildly enthusiastic” or “not that enthusiastic” about turning out. Pollster J. Ann Selzer told the Des Moines Register that the data suggests “she looks stronger in the poll than she could on caucus night.”

Trump’s campaign is hoping for a knockout blow in Iowa that will set a formidable tone heading into New Hampshire’s primary eight days later. Sunday’s event in Indianola marked his first in-person campaign event in the state since last weekend — a contrast with Haley and DeSantis, who have held a number of events throughout the week. Trump was originally set to hold back-to-back events on Saturday but canceled, citing Iowa’s weather. He opted for a tele-rally with Attorney General Brenna Bird (R) instead.

As Iowans weigh whether to brave subzero temperatures and dangerous conditions Monday to go out and caucus, Trump, wearing a white hat with “Trump Caucus Captain” in gold font, joked at his rally on Sunday that death was worth the risk because his voters would be caucusing to save their country. And he warned Iowans to act as if he were behind in the polls.

The National Weather Service issued a wind chill warning Sunday from Des Moines forecasting that “life-threatening wind chills” will continue into Tuesday as the Arctic cold air has settled in the area with temperatures “well below zero.”

“This extreme Arctic air combined with breezy winds at times will continue to create dangerous conditions into Tuesday, with wind chill values as low as 45 below zero possible at times,” the warning said.

Voters must arrive at their precincts at 7 p.m. Central time on Monday to hear speeches from the candidates’ representatives before filling out ballots. The detailed forecast from the Weather Service for Monday night in the Des Moines area predicted a low around minus-11, with wind chill values in that area as low as minus-30. Wind gusts, the forecast said, would be as high as 22 mph.

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