With only a couple of months left until the Iowa caucuses, former President Donald J. Trump emphasized his campaign strategy during a speech in the state on Saturday. Trump made it clear that winning the first Republican nominating contest in Iowa was crucial for him to swiftly conclude the primary race and shift his focus to the general election against President Biden.
During his speech, Trump also took the opportunity to engage with voters on a personal level, something he rarely does during his rallies. He posed for pictures and shook hands with supporters after his speech concluded. This marked a departure from his usual routine, demonstrating a slight change in his campaign approach for the Republican primary.
Trump’s recent campaign events in Iowa have mainly revolved around small “commit to caucus” gatherings. These events are designed to solidify his popularity in the state and ensure a victory in January, essentially eliminating most of his competition. Despite being the clear front-runner in the Republican primary, both in terms of polling and fundraising, Trump has maintained a relatively light campaign schedule in Iowa. Meanwhile, his challengers have been tirelessly campaigning across the state in hopes of weakening his stronghold and securing a path to the nomination.
On the same day as Trump’s speech, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has placed great importance on Iowa for his campaign, opened a new campaign headquarters in the state. He was joined by Iowa’s popular Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, who recently endorsed him. Reynolds, who initially pledged to remain neutral in the caucuses, indirectly criticized Trump by praising DeSantis and emphasizing the importance of earning the votes of Iowa caucusgoers.
In Fort Dodge, Trump exuded confidence and employed his transactional approach to politics, reminding Iowans of what he did for them as president and asking for their support in return. He took credit for ensuring that Iowa kept its position as the first presidential nominating contest, in contrast to the Democrats who moved Iowa later in their calendar. Additionally, he reaffirmed his commitment to the ethanol industry, which is vital to Iowa’s economy, and boasted about the $28 billion in aid his administration provided to farmers, attributing it to the tariffs imposed on China. Trump suggested that this alone should guarantee him a victory in January.
Despite emphasizing the importance of Iowans’ support in the caucuses, Trump also made it evident that he was already looking ahead to the general election against President Biden. He criticized Biden for his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, accusing him of being influenced by China and being too lenient on the country. Trump even made a reference to the film “The Manchurian Candidate” to illustrate his point, although it did not resonate with the crowd. Furthermore, he addressed the ongoing investigations against him, bringing up the controversial Steele dossier and dismissing salacious claims made about his activities in a Moscow hotel.
As the Republican primary race approaches its conclusion, Trump’s focus on Iowa becomes increasingly crucial. Winning the caucuses would solidify his position as the front-runner and allow him to concentrate on the general election. However, his challengers are determined to challenge his dominance in Iowa and secure their own path to the nomination. Thus, the next few months leading up to the Iowa caucuses will prove pivotal for the future of the Republican race.