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State of the race: Trump up big in Iowa poll, possible record cold caucus

Former+President+Donald+Trump+looks+at+the+crowd+before+speaking+at+the+Lincoln+dinner+on+July+28%2C+2023.
Cleo Westin
Former President Donald Trump looks at the crowd before speaking at the Lincoln dinner on July 28, 2023.

The remaining five major Republican candidates have been blitzing the state ahead of the caucus at 7 p.m. Monday, where former President Donald Trump has yet to trail in polling data.

Candidates make final stops across Ames

Former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson all held events in Ames on Sunday. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also held an event on Thursday in Ames, leaving Trump as the only major candidate remaining not to stop in the city in the final week before the caucus.

Trump has not visited Ames since the Cy-Hawk football game in September.

Sen. Joni Ernst and former Rep. Steve King were also in Ames as they introduced Haley and Ramaswamy at their respective events. However, while King endorsed Ramaswamy earlier in January, Ernst did not endorse Haley and told NBC News hours before her event Sunday that she is “assuming that President Trump wins” the Iowa Caucus.

Trump up big in Iowa poll

A Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa poll released Saturday showed Trump leading with 48% among likely caucusgoers’ first choice. The next closest candidate is Haley at 20% with DeSantis following at 16%.

In comparison to their December poll, Haley took second place from DeSantis as she gained four percentage points and he fell three percentage points. Ramaswamy remained in fourth and Hutchinson remained at 1%.

The same Des Moines Register poll showed the former president leading in almost every other polling category including the highest percentage of supporters who have their minds made up and also those who are “extremely enthusiastic” about their first choice.

Among independents, Trump leads with 37% with Haley trailing at 33%. Following them, DeSantis received 14% and Ramaswamy got 5%.

Frigid temperatures

The National Weather Service in Des Moines, Iowa, is forecasting frigid temperatures for Ames with feels-like temperatures reaching near 30 below zero around the start of the caucuses in what could be the coldest caucuses ever. A wind chill warning lasts through noon Tuesday and has forced classes online at all three of Iowa’s regent universities.

Iowa Republican Party Chair Jeff Kaufmann told reporters during a legislative breakfast on Jan. 8 that “weather could prevent a record-breaking turnout” but he still expects a “robust” turnout.

The cold has been discussed by almost every candidate but Trump’s statement stood out. At a rally in Indianola, Iowa, on Sunday he said “you can’t sit home” and “even if you vote and then pass away, it’s worth it.”

His sentiment may be caused by a Des Moines Register poll released Saturday showing 62% of respondent DeSantis supporters were going to “definitely,” rather than probably, attend the caucus despite cold temperatures, the highest percentage of any candidate.

The poll also showed 56% of Trump supporters and 51% of Haley supporters will “definitely” attend.

Of all respondents, 55% said they would “definitely” attend rather than probably.

Republican field narrows

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suspended his campaign Wednesday after not making the trip to Iowa as a presidential candidate since he did so for the 2016 race. He told NBC News in September that he has not done so because he has not “wanted to.”

Christie said he would continue to do everything in his power to prevent Trump from serving in the Oval Office again.

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