GOP candidates make last-minute appeals to Iowa voters a day before caucuses. Follow live updates
Jan 14, 2024, 4:00 PM | Updated: 5:46 pm
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
With just one day to go until Iowa’s presidential caucuses, the candidates are urging their supporters to brave bone-chilling cold and blustery wind to help carry them through Republicans’ leadoff voting contest.
The final Des Moines Register/NBC News poll before Monday night’s caucuses found former President Donald Trump maintaining a formidable lead, supported by nearly half of likely caucusgoers. Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor, and Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, remain locked in a close battle for second.
Trump, Haley and DeSantis are fanning out across Iowa on Sunday to meet with voters. Already, Haley was forced to cancel an in-person stop because of poor weather conditions.
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ADEL — David Oman, a former co-chair of the Iowa Republican Party, says he thinks Haley is far and away the best choice for the GOP, in part because she’s “leaning into the future.”
“I felt in my head and heart that the choice is pretty easy,” Oman said ahead of Haley’s final pre-caucus day event. “She’s got some good policy ideas and a lot of energy – what’s not to love?”
He also said that the country needs a president “to come in and take stock of new ideas and new people in key roles, reassert our leadership – that speaks to national security, which for me is always an important issue, and some of the others are frankly a little weak, in my view.”
DES MOINES — Iowa Republican Party Chair Jeff Kaufmann is feeling more optimistic about caucus turnout than he was a few days ago.
“If you would have asked me this and the caucuses would have been two days ago, I would have said we would have significantly less turnout,” Kaufmann told reporters at a briefing hosted by Bloomberg on Sunday.
Clear skies Sunday that helped create conditions for crews to clear the roads bolstered his confidence. He said he was more concerned about icy roads than about low temperatures, which he said Iowans were accustomed to.
Without putting an exact number on it, Kauffman said, “I think it’s going to be a robust turnout.”
DeSantis is wearing a winter coat again.
The Florida governor was bundled up at a campaign event in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, days after he left his coat at home in the Sunshine State when he was there delivering his State of the State address Tuesday.
“This is my winter coat. I have not worn this since I’ve been governor once,” DeSantis said in Iowa.
He told a crowd at a construction contractors convention in Des Moines on Wednesday that his staff was hustling his coat from Tallahassee.
DUBUQUE — Mark Calhoun wears shorts every day of the year.
The 61-year-old fan of DeSantis (and the Dallas Cowboys) ventured out in subzero temperatures Sunday — with bare legs — to see the candidate in Dubuque.
“He’s what we need,” Calhoun said.
The coldest caucus temperatures won’t keep him away Monday.
WAUKEE — Trump and his former-rival-turned-backer, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, dropped by a Casey’s convenience store to pick up pizzas after his Indianola rally.
“The best you’ll ever have,” said a Casey’s worker as he handed over the food.
Trump then made another stop to deliver the pizzas to members of the Waukee Fire Department. He handed the stack of boxes out down the line of those assembled and chatted about their trucks and their work.
Trump then asked for a slice of his own.
“Good luck, everybody,” he said before taking a bite and continuing to chat as he ate. “This is good pizza, by the way,” he said.
AMES — Speaking to a room packed full of Iowans and out-of-state volunteers, Haley gave an abbreviated version of her campaign speech, drawing frequent cheers from the pink necklace and boa-clad “Women for Nikki” volunteers.
“It’s been eleven months, and it comes down to tomorrow,” Haley said of Monday’s caucuses, repeating her frequent call to GOP voters to elect her as a “new generational leader that leaves the negativity and the baggage behind and focuses on the solutions of the future.”
Haley was introduced by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the 2024 campaign but said the former South Carolina governor is “inspiring so many people across the state of Iowa, inspiring them so much to get out and support her in the caucuses, support her in this quest for the nomination of the Republican Party for our president of the United States.”
AMES — Out-of-state volunteers have descended on Iowa to help boost enthusiasm for their given candidates in the waning hours before the state’s leadoff caucuses.
On Sunday in Ames, dozens of women festooned in hot pink feather boas and beaded necklaces waved “Women for Nikki” signs ahead of her afternoon event.
One of them was Alissa Baker, who said she has been calling Iowans and knocking on doors since she arrived from Virginia on Saturday.
“We’ve stepped up our efforts on phone banking and definitely been making a lot more phone calls,” Baker said. “We’re doing everything that you would normally do to get out the caucus support.”
On Monday night, Baker said she would serve as a caucus captain for Haley’s campaign in the Ames area, telling caucusgoers why they should support the Republican.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has become the 24th Republican senator to endorse Trump for president.
Rubio’s endorsement on Sunday means the two U.S. senators from Florida are now firmly behind Trump instead of DeSantis, their home-state governor. Trump is now one Republican senator short of securing the majority support of the GOP senators.
“I support Trump because that kind of leadership is the ONLY way we will get the extraordinary actions needed to fix the disaster Biden has created,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “It’s time to get on with the work of beating Biden & saving America!”
The endorsement of Trump is a bit of a surprise, given that Haley endorsed Rubio when he was running in the 2016 Republican presidential campaign. Rubio dropped out of that race after losing Florida.
AMES — He hasn’t been as visible on the campaign trail this week as some of the other Republican contenders, but Asa Hutchinson is still homing in on Iowa.
The former Arkansas governor was spotted Sunday at the same Ames barbecue restaurant where Haley was hosting a campaign rally. Hutchinson met with some lunchtime diners and did a media interview before heading out.
Hutchinson qualified for the first Republican candidate debate but didn’t meet the markers for the subsequent four. He said last week that he expects to beat expectations in Iowa’s caucuses.
COUNCIL BLUFFS — Hans Rudin, a 49-year-old community college adviser in Council Bluffs, Iowa, says DeSantis’ response to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas won the Florida governor his support.
Rudin supported Trump in the past two elections but has now decided to caucus for DeSantis. The DeSantis administration arranged flights for Americans evacuating from Israel and sent cargo planes with health care supplies, drones, body armor and helmets.
“The definite trigger was Israel,” Rudin said, adding that he did not like Trump’s criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu days after the attack saying he “let us down” about another operation in which the U.S. killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in 2020.
“I thought, This guy’s kind of a jerk. Well, I knew that beforehand in many ways, but I like Israel so much,” he said.
Nevertheless, Rudin said he would still support Trump over President Joe Biden if Trump becomes the Republican nominee.
INDIANOLA — Trump is telling his supporters not to let anything stop them from voting for him in Monday’s Iowa caucuses.
“You can’t sit at home. If you’re sick as a dog … Even if you vote and then pass away,” Trump said at his Sunday rally.
The snow may have stopped falling across Iowa, but evidence of the treacherous storm that bore down on the state earlier this week remains.
Major interstates in the Des Moines area were mostly clear on Sunday, but wrecked cars and tractor trailers stranded in the snowstorms of recent days littered medians and areas just off the road.
Bone-chilling temperatures have now set in across the state ahead of Monday night’s presidential caucuses. In Des Moines on Sunday afternoon, it was mostly sunny and cold, with a high near minus-9 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-23 Celsius). The wind chill made it feel as cold as minus-30 Fahrenheit (minus-34 Celsius).
INDIANOLA — Former Republican presidential candidate Doug Burgum is endorsing Trump for president.
“Four years ago, I was speaking on behalf of President Trump at the Iowa caucuses in Sioux City. And today I’m here to do something that none of the other presidential primary candidates have done, and that’s endorse Donald J. Trump for the president of the United States of America,” the North Dakota governor said, appearing with Trump at a rally in Indianola on Sunday.
Burgum, who ended his own campaign last month, said he’d had a “front-row seat,” both as a business leader and a governor, to see what Trump can do.
INDIANOLA — Trump’s rally was briefly interrupted by protesters — the first time it’s happened in years.
“You’ve taken millions!” a woman shouted as Trump was mid-rally, prompting the crowd to respond with a “Trump!” chant to drown her out.
“Go back to Mommy,” Trump responded as she was led out of the room. “So young and immature.”
Moments later came another protester, this one holding a black and yellow banner that read “Trump Climate Criminal.” He shouted the same thing. The same group interrupted a DeSantis town hall and a separate event for the Florida governor in Ames last week.
When he was running in 2016, Trump’s events were routinely interrupted by protesters.
“That used to happen all the time,” Trump remarked. “It always adds excitement.”
DUBUQUE — Judy and Brad Knowler drove a few miles from Peosta to hear Haley in Dubuque. A couple of hours later, after Haley’s in-person stop was canceled, they found themselves down the road at an event for DeSantis.
Brad, 67, is sure he’ll support Haley in Monday’s caucuses, but Judy, 64, was hoping to hear her in person to “give me a little bit more confidence.” From debates and negative political ads, she said, “it’s really hard to see the real person.”
“I have one foot in Nikki’s camp, but we’ll see,” she said as she waited for DeSantis to take the stage. “It’s an opportunity most Americans don’t get to be this close in person.”
DES MOINES — Trump is setting high expectations in Iowa the day before the state’s caucuses — even as he criticizes those who are trying to do the same.
“Somebody won by 12 points, and that was like a record,” he said, citing Republican Bob Dole’s margin of victory in 1988.
“Well, we should do that. If we don’t do that, let ’em criticize us, right?” Trump told volunteers in Des Moines on Sunday morning. “But let’s see if we can get to 50%.”
Moments earlier, Trump had been complaining about the expectation that he earn a majority of the caucus votes Monday night.
“There seems to be something about 50%,” he said. “Now it doesn’t matter from a numbers standpoint. I think they’re doing it so that they can set a high expectation so if we end up with 49%, which would be about 25 points bigger than anyone else ever got, they can say, ’He had a failure, it was a failure.’”
INDIANOLA — Trump sounded a message of vengeance at his only Iowa rally this weekend.
“These caucuses are your personal chance to score the ultimate victory over all of the liars, cheaters, thugs, perverts, frauds, crooks, freaks, creeps and other quite nice people,” he said at a commit-to-caucus event in Indianola.
“The Washington swamp has done everything in its power to take away your voice,” Trump added. “But tomorrow is your time to turn on them and to say and speak your mind and to vote. And we’re going to take this country back.”
INDIANOLA — Marc Smiarowski hunched to fight off the minus 18-degree chill outside the Kent Student Center on Simpson College campus Sunday morning, waiting for doors to open for former President Donald Trump’s midday rally at the small school south of Des Moines.
But as the weak winter sun hung low in the sky, a sense of bitterness burned in Smiarowski.
“I’m here in part out of spite,” said the 44-year-old public utility worker, who drove 40 miles to be there. “I can’t abandon him. After what they did to him in the last election, and the political persecution he faces, I feel like I owe him this. He’s our only option.”
“No one else could handle what he’s facing,” added his friend Kailie Johnson, a 26-year-old dental hygienist from the same small town of Huneston.
More than 30 minutes before the center opened, more than 100 people stood in line while layered in Carhartt coveralls with hats and hoods pulled down tight. It was a test run for Iowa’s caucuses Monday and of the devotion Trump said last week would make his supporters “walk on glass” for him.
DUBUQUE — Haley’s campaign stop in Dubuque was canceled Sunday morning because of poor travel conditions, the campaign said about an hour before the scheduled event.
Voters walking into the venue were given the news by campaign staffers, who offered some a T-shirt, hat or yard sign as consolation.
John Schmid, 69, was already waiting at the venue when the event was called off.
“I don’t blame her,” said the retiree from Asbury, a few miles outside Dubuque. He’s already a Haley supporter, but he wanted to see the “refreshing” candidate in person. He hopes Haley will do well in Monday’s caucuses, which he’ll be at despite the bitter cold.
“It’s just part of living in Iowa in January,” he said.
Haley swapped the in-person event with a virtual town hall.