Turnout Becomes the Subject in Iowa

Candidates urge supporters to attend GOP caucuses on a cold night
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2024 4:37 PM CST
Updated Jan 14, 2024 5:00 PM CST
In Iowa, Candidates Stress Turnout
Donald Trump carries pizzas at a Casey's in Waukee, Iowa, on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Republican presidential candidates pressed on through bitter cold, high winds, and catcalls in Iowa on Sunday, saying their supporters are committed enough to show up at the caucuses on Monday evening. Windchills forecast to near 45 degrees below zero at caucus time will test that commitment. Also on Sunday, a couple of endorsements emerged just in time. Developments include:

  • The windchill factor: The caucus system even in balmy weather is subject to Iowans' work schedules, child care needs, health issues, or last-minute car trouble, per the Washington Post. Primaries in other states always have more participation. This is not a system that allows for absentee voting. The state GOP said it's been cold on caucus night before; windchills on Sunday were well below zero. "Ultimately Iowans are well acclimated to Midwest winters and understand what's at stake for our country," a spokesman said. On the other hand, potential attendee Bob Ray said, "I'm 75 years old, and I'm not going to want to get out that night."
  • Weather winners: There's little agreement on which candidate might be helped by the cold cutting into voter turnout. Donald Trump's staff, which has reason to expect a big victory, began lowering expectations because of the weather, per the Hill. "A win's a win," said adviser Jason Miller. The Hill analyzes five theories about the impact of the cold here.
  • Candidates' forecasts: Trump told a rally in Indianola that they'd be safely indoors for the event, per the Post, and said his supporters can't stay home even if "you're sick as a dog." He drew laughter by adding, "Even if you vote and then pass away, it's worth it." Nikki Haley said she's not worried about the weather. "What I am going to say is the momentum and the energy on the ground is strong," she said. DeSantis said on CNN's State of the Union that he has no plans to drop out of the race. "We've got a huge number of people that have committed to caucus, and we expect that these are the people that turn out," he said.
  • Late support: Larry Hogan, the former Republican Maryland governor who had been involved with the No Labels movement, made an announcement Sunday, per Politico. "I believe Nikki Haley is the strongest chance for us to put forth our best possible candidate for November," he told State of the Union. At Trump's rally, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said he's backing the former president. He dropped his own candidacy last month; no other GOP rivals have endorsed Trump. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also lined up behind Trump.
  • Final thoughts: "It's been eleven months, and it comes down to tomorrow," Haley told a rally, repeating her call to choose a "new generational leader that leaves the negativity and the baggage behind," per the AP. DeSantis said he thinks GOP voters appreciate Trump's record but "understand that there's some drawbacks here about nominating him in 2024." Trump attacked both of them, per the New York Times. He told Iowans the caucuses are a chance to achieve "ultimate victory" by defeating his enemies he described as liars, cheaters, and thugs.
  • The peanut galleries: Trump suffered a rare unfriendly interruption from his crowd from climate activists carrying a "Trump: Climate Criminal" banner, per the Times. A woman shouted, "You've taken millions!" before security removed her. On Saturday, a man presented DeSantis with a participation trophy at an event, per USA Today. "Now, probably not gonna win the election, right, but we're proud of you for trying," he told Florida's governor.
(More Iowa caucuses stories.)

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