Iowa Republican Chair Predicts ‘Robust’ Caucus Turnout

(Bloomberg) -- Iowa Republican Party Chair Jeff Kaufmann said that a strong turnout on Monday night’s Republican caucus would cement Iowa’s place as the kick-off to his party’s presidential nominating process.

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“I think it’s going to be a robust turnout,” Kaufmann said at a Bloomberg News roundtable in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sunday, the day before the first contest in the US. “If we have a good turnout, I don’t know that I have to make a strong argument. Iowans get out, and it’s -15, and they show up at a caucus.”

Kaufmann predicted a large number of caucusgoers despite snow storms and frigid temperatures that have curtailed travel in recent days. Kaufmann has previously said there will not be any delays to the 7 p.m. start of the caucus, but has cautioned that the weather could prevent Iowans from breaking the 2016 caucus record of 186,000 voters.

There’s no “magical county” that will be a bellwether for turnout, the chair said, but he will be closely looking at Sioux County in northwest Iowa, Dallas County in the metro Des Moines area, and Davenport in eastern Iowa.

Ground Operation

Many voters were unable to attend candidate events over the past week because of weather-related cancellations. That will boost the importance of speeches that the candidates’ supporters give at the caucus sites on Monday to persuade participants.

“I think there’s a greater chance that the surrogate speeches that are going to happen on Monday night have a greater effect than they ever than they had before,” Kaufmann said.

The results will also likely show the impact of the intense organizing efforts of candidates Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, he added.

“I think that’s where DeSantis’ confidence is coming from,” he said. “This is a ground game endeavor.”

Iowa’s status as the presidential kick-off state was threatened this year when President Joe Biden successfully pushed to move Democrats’ first nominating contest to South Carolina. Republicans, including Trump, have pledged to keep Iowa first on the GOP calendar.

Iowa, which over a decade ago helped send Barack Obama to the White House, has increasingly become a Republican stronghold as surrounding states have become more Democratic, in part due to the migration of college graduates. Kaufmann said he hopes to see both parties back in 2028.

Poll Perception

Trump head into the Iowa caucus with polls showing him leading rivals DeSantis and Nikki Haley by more than 30 percentage points.

That margin has fueled expectations of a decisive win for Trump on Monday. Falling short of a clear win could give them momentum in the future nominating contests.

Kaufmann said he is confident that none of the candidates would challenge the caucus results and that the party’s process would be transparent and valid.

“I am 100% confident, and I don’t use that term lightly,” he said.

--With assistance from Hadriana Lowenkron and Stephanie Lai.

(Updates starting in the fourth paragraph)

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