Trump’s Iowa operation suggests his campaign will be formidable

The former president lost Iowa in 2016 and doesn’t intend to do so again

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaigns in Iowa.
image: reuters

Jan 11th 2024 | SIOUX CITYShare

Kristi noem came to north-west Iowa to stump for Donald Trump on January 3rd, but the event doubled as a running-mate audition. “Worked with him when he was in the White House on tax cuts. Worked with him on policies, trade agreements,” South Dakota’s governor told the crowd. “Worked on foreign policy with him.” Despite Mr Trump’s absence, the event also featured many hallmarks of his rallies. Merch, including shirts with Mr Trump’s mugshot, was for sale out front. The maga faithful filled the room, even on a freezing Wednesday night. And hundreds went home with foam koozies (cup-holders) reminding everyone that Mr Trump was a back to back iowa champ.

The former president won the state by comfortable margins in the 2016 and 2020 general elections. Yet his current popularity makes it easy to forget that his first electoral foray in Iowa did not go as he had hoped: despite leading in surveys ahead of the 2016 caucuses, he had an anaemic on-the-ground operation and finished second behind a better-organised Republican, Ted Cruz. This year a more methodical Trump operation is trying to project confidence but not complacency.

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