Trump’s series of commit-to-caucus events comes as his campaign seeks to turn out thousands of first-time caucus-goers on the former president’s behalf — an effort to tamp down the momentum of other GOP candidates and to set an early tone for the general election.
“Pretend you’re one point down. You’re one point down,” Trump yelled. “You have to get out, and you have to vote, vote, vote.”
Trump, who maintains a commanding lead in the state, dinged top GOP rivals Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who were also campaigning in Iowa as they battle it out for second place.
“Our people have enthusiasm,” something the other GOP campaigns are lacking, Trump said.
His speech hit a number of familiar themes, from the southern border to inflation and attacks against President Joe Biden, who Trump painted as an incompetent president.
And on the anniversary of Jan. 6, Trump, who is under federal indictment for his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election results, continued to peddle falsehoods about the election he lost and again criticized the treatment of his supporters who participated in the Capitol assault, referring to them as “hostages.”
The Clinton crowd packed the risers of the middle school gymnasium, holding “Trump 2024” and “Caucus for Trump” signs. Trump was more than three hours late to his last rally of the day due to what he said was an issue with the plane he was traveling on. While people waited, volunteers passed out water bottles and chocolate bars to supporters.
Two rally attendees, Chris Voss, 64, and her husband, Jim Voss, 63 — both lifelong Clinton residents — have made calls to encourage people to caucus for Trump on Jan. 15. They leave for vacation on Saturday and will miss the caucus, but are trying to make up for their absence by encouraging friends who have not participated before.
“We think [Trump’s] the only one besides God that’s going to get us out of the hell hole that we’re in right now,” Jim Voss said.
Not everyone they’ve called has been fully behind the former president. Older voters have been certain they’re supporting Trump, Chris Voss said, but younger Iowans they’ve spoken with have been more on the fence about who they’ll back this month.
“A lot of people are thinking ‘Oh, I think Trump’s got it in the bag,’ but it’s very important that people go out and caucus,” she said. “So I really am, I’m making sure that friends that haven’t caucused before go out and caucus— that we know will caucus for Trump.”
Roughly a quarter of the crowd raised their hand when one speaker asked who would be a first-time participant on Jan. 15. Gary Hansen, 63, attended his first Trump rally on Saturday and said he decided he would show up on Jan. 15 to support Trump who was “cheated” in 2020.
“He’s fixed the [country] once before,” Hansan said, “And I think he’ll do it again.”