Trump urges Iowans to “put big numbers up” in caucuses, rails against opponents

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Donald Trump on Wednesday made his third trip to Iowa this month and urged his supporters to turn out in “big numbers” when Republicans cast the first presidential nomination votes in 33 days.

The former president, who has remained far ahead of his rivals in national polls and those of likely Iowa caucusgoers, pressed his supporters not to be complacent despite his frontrunner status.

“We have to put big numbers up, really big numbers,” Trump said. Addressing Iowa voters directly, he said: “We are leading by a lot but you have to go out and vote. That margin of victory is so, so powerful.”

He also insulted his GOP rivals and President Joe Biden and boasted about everything from keeping Iowa at the forefront of the Republican nominating process to bringing back the phrase “Merry Christmas,” though he didn’t offer details explaining when he thought it had gone missing.

He vowed that if he won the November 2024 election, the economy would be thriving again by Christmas of that year.

Though he has faced a bevy of legal problems, including four criminal cases, Trump campaigned regularly in the Iowa throughout the autumn, far more than in any other early-voting state for the 2024 Republican nomination. Wednesday marks his 11th visit since September.

His “Commit to Caucus” event in the eastern city of Coralville near Iowa City was part rally, part “caucus 101.” Besides Trump’s address, it featured an explanatory video featuring an animated character and panel of local organizers instructing Iowa Republicans on how and where to participate in the in-person meetings.

Before Trump arrived, hundreds wound around the hotel, waiting to enter the ballroom where he was to speak.

About a quarter of the crowd of more than 1,000 people raised their hands to indicate that it was their first time participating in a caucus.

“That is an expansion of the electorate only President Trump can do,” Republican state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, an Iowa adviser for Trump’s campaign, said onstage.

Trump closed out his remarks with a performance he has been frequently tacking onto his speeches, where he speaks in a soft, lilting voice over an instrumental song that adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory have claimed as their anthem.

Speaking over the music rising and falling, Trump described America as a country in ruin, “where free speech is no longer allowed and where crime is rampant” and where “once revered airports, those beautiful, beautiful airports, are dirty.”

“And now they sit and wait for hours and then are notified that the plane won’t leave. And they have no idea when they will.”

“With you at my side, we will demolish the ‘deep state.’ We will drive out the globalists. We will cast out the communists. We will throw off the sick political class. We will rout the fake news media. We will drain the swamp and we will liberate our country from the tyrants and villains once and for all,” he said, drawing whoops and cheers.

Though Trump has increasingly embraced fringe elements and authoritarian and violent rhetoric, his campaign organization is more disciplined in the mechanics of the process as he seeks the nomination a third time. When he first ran in 2016, the businessman and reality television star was unfamiliar with a caucus, and the need for intense organization to turn out supporters at hundreds of local meetings around the state.

Trump lost Iowa in 2016. In a foreshadowing of the false claims of fraud he still relentlessly makes about the 2020 presidential election, he claimed rival Ted Cruz stole the caucus based on “fraud” and demanded a do-over. He didn’t provide proof of fraud in the caucus results but pointed to a mailer sent by Cruz’s campaign that aimed to drive voters to the polls by showing their voting history and a false rumor spread by a Cruz surrogate warning that another candidate was dropping out.

Trump’s campaign has already started reviving the fraud claims in 2024’s Iowa race, with his campaign firing off a statement over the weekend that said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his wife had a “plot to rig the Caucus through fraud.”

In an interview on Fox News on Friday, Casey DeSantis issued a call for supportive “moms and grandmoms” to come to Iowa, saying that people “do not have to be a resident of Iowa to be able to participate in the caucus.”

The Iowa Republican Party limits the selection process to residents. Casey DeSantis posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, attempting to clarify her remarks by noting that while voting was limited to Iowa residents, others can volunteer.

Ron DeSantis echoed that rationale when speaking to reporters, but the Trump campaign on Saturday condemned the comments.

DeSantis has wagered his candidacy’s future on Iowa, and has predicted he will win there.

A Des Moines Register NBC News Mediacom Iowa Poll taken last week showed the Florida governor running a distant second with support from 19 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers, the same support he had in the Register’s August survey, and trailing Trump by 32 percentage points. DeSantis and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley are battling for second place.

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