De­spite Trump’s lead in polls, win in Iowa re­mains un­cer­tain

Repub­li­can front-run­ner will test cau­cus­go­ers’ cold re­solve

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

DES MOINES, IOWA | Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump’s high poll num­bers here are rais­ing eye­brows among the state’s vet­eran politi­cos, who doubt he will be able to trans­late his ap­peal as a celebrity and po­lit­i­cal rene­gade into vot­ers who show up to cau­cuses on a cold Fe­bru­ary night.

It’s a po­ten­tial prob­lem of which Mr. Trump is aware. He’s hired some of the best Iowa op­er­a­tives to try to fig­ure out how to get supporters of his anti-es­tab­lish­ment mes­sage, who may not be reg­u­lar cau­cus­go­ers, to come out for him on Feb. 1.

But those on the ground say they’ll be sur­prised if he’s suc­cess­ful.

“I don’t know one Iowa cau­cus­goer who is go­ing to show up for Trump on Feb. 1,” said Laura Kamien­ski, a Repub­li­can Party cau­cus precinct rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Hi­awatha Dis­trict in Cedar Rapids. “The peo­ple who are an­swer­ing the poll­sters’ calls, I don’t know [if] they are the peo­ple who will turn out on cau­cus night.”

It’s hap­pened be­fore: Democrats Howard Dean in 2004 and Jesse Jackson in 1988 both had strong show­ings in the polls, but their supporters failed to ma­te­ri­al­ize on cau­cus night, which is usu­ally frigid, and in­volves show­ing up to spend sev­eral hours at a set time at a precinct site.

Mr. Trump draws supporters by the thou­sands to his ral­lies, but they are not the die-hard party activists who re­li­ably turn out on cau­cus night.

Ms. Kamien­ski said she expects a sur­prise in the cau­cus this cy­cle sim­i­lar to for­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum’s un­ex­pected win in 2012. Mr. San­to­rum is back in the 2016 Repub­li­can race but is polling near the bot­tom of the crowded field in Iowa and na­tion­ally.

Mr. Trump’s ap­peal has also tested poll­sters, who put a good deal of thought into try­ing to iden­tify likely cau­cus­go­ers. Of­ten that’s based on past vot­ing history — but Mr. Trump is count­ing on new blood that’s tougher to eval­u­ate.

Poll­sters de­fended their sur­vey meth­ods and stood by their num­bers. But some cred­ited Mr. Trump’s dom­i­nance in polls to his near-univer­sal name recog­ni­tion as star of the hit TV shows “The Ap­pren­tice” and “Celebrity Ap­pren­tice.”

Trump cam­paign man­ager Corey Le­wandowski dis­missed any doubt about the poll num­bers. He said it was com­ing from the same “po­lit­i­cal pun­dits who have been wrong ev­ery step of the way” about Mr. Trump’s can­di­dacy, in­clud­ing pre­dict­ing he would fade af­ter the sum­mer.

“At which point will th­ese elit­ists come around and wrap their heads around the fact that Don­ald Trump will be the nominee for the Repub­li­can Party?” said Mr. Le­wandowski.

He also noted that they had hired the Iowa or­ga­nizer from Mr. Santro­rum’s 2012 cam­paign, Chuck Laudner, who is con­sid­ered one of the most for­mi­da­ble grass-roots or­ga­niz­ers and get-out-thevote strate­gists in the state.

“You tell me an­other cam­paign who has the in­di­vid­ual run­ning it who won the last time. You can’t be­cause we” have Mr. Laudner, he said, adding that the cam­paign also had the largest paid staff, with 13 op­er­a­tives on the ground in Iowa.

Mr. Trump’s poll num­bers have been im­pres­sive. The bil­lion­aire businessman has been at the front of the pack in Iowa and na­tion­ally most of the time since he en­tered the race, though he has traded the lead re­cently with re­tired neu­ro­sur­geon Ben Car­son.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Car­son have polled in the low 20s and hold a dou­bledigit lead over the next-clos­est com­peti­tor, with more than a dozen can­di­dates in the race.

Both men have tapped into an un­der­cur­rent of anti-es­tab­lish­ment rage in the elec­torate.

“There are al­ways can­di­dates in the race who strike a chord but [who] peo­ple don’t see as a se­ri­ous pres­i­den­tial can­di­date,” said David Yepsen, an ex­pert on pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns in Iowa. “I’m think­ing specif­i­cally of Jesse Jackson on the Demo­cratic side. I saw lots of good Democrats show up at his events and cheer, but on cau­cus night they went some­place else.”

Fur­ther­more, he said Mr. Trump had the same heavy lift that then-Sen. Barack Obama con­fronted in 2008, when he was atop a groundswell of vot­ers new to the po­lit­i­cal process.

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