Under pressure to live up to expectations and win big in Iowa’s Jan. 15 Republican presidential caucuses, former President Trump is urging his supporters to turn out.
“We don’t want to take anything for granted,” Trump told a crowd Friday as he campaigned in Mason City, Iowa.
Trump encouraged his supporters to send a “thunderous” message on the night of the caucuses, which kick off the GOP presidential nominating calendar.
The former president is the commanding front-runner for the Republican nomination, as he makes his third straight White House run.
Trump made history last year as the first former or current president to be indicted for a crime, but his four indictments, including charges he tried to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss, have only fueled his support among Republican voters.
In Iowa, he holds a massive lead in the latest polls over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who are both fighting for a distant second place.
“We’re leading by 30 to 40 points,” Trump touted to his supporters at multiple stops in the Hawkeye State this past weekend.
However, he added that “the poll numbers are scary because we’re leading by so much.”
A major concern is complacency.
“We’re not taking any chances,” Trump emphasized at a campaign rally in Sioux City. “The biggest risk is, you say you know what? He’s winning by so much, darling. Let’s stay home and watch television. Let’s watch this great victory. And if enough people do that, it’s not going to be pretty. But we’re not going to let that happen.”
Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird told Fox News late last month that “President Trump’s poll numbers are unprecedented for a Republican running in the Iowa caucuses. So that is great news. The key thing to remember is that the only thing that matters is the one that happens on caucus.”
Bird, who has endorsed the former president and is a top Trump surrogate in Iowa, said that “we are all focused on [the caucus]. His grassroots organization is focused on that. I’m a caucus captain myself in Guthrie County. I will be there at the caucus helping rally votes for President Trump on caucus night. We have to stay focused, and our people have to show up. The support is strong, it’s there, but we have to show up.”
The Trump campaign in Iowa shifted into a higher gear weeks ago, and the former president picked up the pace of stops in the state. High profile surrogates are also parachuting into Iowa to campaign on the former president’s behalf. Additionally, the campaign trained nearly 2,000 caucus captains in precincts across the state.
“Their sole job is to run each individual caucus that takes place and making sure that the list of the targeted voters supporting President Trump show up,” Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita recently told Fox News.
At campaign events, Trump’s team plays videos explaining the caucus process to first-time attendees, hosts panel discussions with precinct captains and gives out “limited edition” Trump-signed hats to campaign volunteers.
The Trump campaign’s ground game operation in Iowa is leagues ahead of his 2016 effort, when he narrowly lost the caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
“Ted Cruz won in 2016 because his ground game was fantastic,” Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann, who remains neutral in the Republican nomination race, told Fox News.
Pointing to the 2024 Trump campaign, Kaufmann said “their ground game has increased immensely.”
Trump will return to Iowa on Wednesday to take questions from Fox News “Special Report” chief political anchor Bret Baier and “The Story” executive editor and anchor Martha MacCallum during a prime-time town hall in Des Moines. He will return again over the weekend for another campaign swing.
However, his schedule in the state is much lighter than that of his rivals, and it also pales in comparison to his campaigning in Iowa leading up to the 2016 caucuses.
One reason is Trump’s busy legal schedule, as he juggles numerous court cases and trials. The former president was in federal court in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, as his lawyers argued that he is immune from prosecution on charges he attempted to illegally override the 2020 election results.
However, the lack of time on the ground in Iowa — compared to his rivals — does not appear to have hurt Trump, who is an extremely well-known commodity in a state he has repeatedly visited since first campaigning here in 2015.
As Trump and his campaign team aim for an overwhelming victory in Iowa, as part of their plan to wrap up the nomination race as quickly as possible and pivot to a general election rematch with President Biden next November, they are also facing great expectations.
Trump, aware of the expectations, recently took aim at a familiar target — the media.
“If we win in a massive number — but if it’s a little bit less than that, they’ll say, ‘Oh, he didn’t beat expectations,'” Trump told his supporters.
Longtime Republican strategist David Kochel recently told Fox News that Trump is “driving his own expectations up… It’s all expectations and Trump’s are sky-high.”
“If he’s under 50%, it’s a problem for him given his poll average now is well over 50,” said Kochel, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns nationally and in Iowa.
Seasoned Iowa-based Republican strategist Jimmy Centers said if Trump “wins by more than 20 points and he’s over 50%, my goodness, this thing is over before it even begun.”
“But if it’s under 15 points, then I think we have a race if the field consolidates,” added Centers, a veteran of multiple presidential campaigns, gubernatorial and congressional campaigns, and who served as communications director for then-Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and current Gov. Kim Reynolds.