The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)

Trump launches his fall push in Iowa to lock in his lead before the first Republican caucuses

- By Thomas Beaumont

MAQUOKETA, IOWA >> Donald Trump began a fall press Wednesday to lock in thousands of Republican caucusgoer­s in early-voting Iowa, where the former president faces sky-high expectatio­ns in his campaign for a White House comeback.

Having campaigned far less often in Iowa than his 2024 rivals, Trump was making his first of five Iowa visits planned through the end of October, aimed at converting what polls in Iowa show as a commanding lead into committed supporters and volunteers.

“In less than four months from now, we’re going to win the Iowa caucuses in a historic landslide,” Trump predicted as he addressed a crowd of more than 1,000 people in small-town Maquoketa.

On display was his team’s promised commitment to better organize in Iowa than it did in 2016, when Trump finished a close second to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Supporters from across northeast Iowa lined up outside the expo building at the Jackson County fairground­s hours before Trump’s arrival. His campaign aimed to collect signed cards from the crowd pledging to back him in the Jan. 15 caucuses. While the cards do not bind voters to a candidate, they give campaigns valuable contacts to get out the vote and recruit volunteers and precinct leaders.

Tables inside the hall promoted the number to sign up for campaign text

Former President Donald Trump arrives for a commit to caucus rally, Wednesday, in Maquoketa, Iowa.

messages and screens displayed the caucus schedule and how to participat­e.

Trump addressed his 2016 loss at the start of his speech, blaming his previous campaign team.

“They didn’t do the caucus thing too well and I learned a lot,” Trump acknowledg­ed, adding: “I don’t like second, though.”

Maquoketa is a small town of about 6,000 in the middle of several rural counties in the heart of the swath of eastern Iowa. In 2016, the region flipped from Democratic President Barack Obama to Trump.

Trump has visited Iowa seven times this year, headlining policy and political events, and he stopped by his campaign office in July. Trump has opted not to attend key multicandi­date events in Iowa hosted by influentia­l social conservati­ve groups, an important bloc in the caucuses.

More recently, his events have been more akin to photo ops, including stopping by an Iowa State fraternity house to toss footballs and shake hands before attending the university’s football game in Ames against rival Iowa this month.

Before that, Trump drew throngs to the Iowa State Fair in August. He brought with him to the annual political pageant U.S. House members from Florida as a poke at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a GOP candidate who was visiting the fair the same day.

While Trump is ramping up his campaign, he is still doing far fewer events in the state than several rivals.

DeSantis has pledged to visit all of the state’s 99 counties. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, businessma­n Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence and others have also campaigned aggressive­ly in the state.

During a recent visit to Red Oak in western Iowa, DeSantis jabbed at the disparity between Trump’s visits and his own dozens of events in the state, saying “that just gives off a sense of entitlemen­t.”

But no one has been able to surpass Trump, who remains the early front-runner for the Republican nomination, even as he faces four separate indictment­s that have resulted in dozens of criminal charges.

“The truth is Trump has an enduring lead in Iowa,” said Republican strategist David Kochel, a veteran Iowa and national Republican strategist who has advised several presidenti­al campaigns.

Trump has campaigned in Iowa more often than he has in other early nominating contest states.

“We’re not taking anything for granted. We’re going to fight for every vote. You’re going to see that in every event,” said Trump spokesman Steven Cheung.


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