President Donald Trump is flooding Iowa ahead of the state’s caucuses in what his campaign is calling a test run for November 2020 but is also a means of trying to give the president what he wants: all the attention on himself.
Trump will be holding a rally in Des Moines on Jan. 30, and more than 80 surrogates — including his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump and their partners Kimberly Guilfoyle and Lara Trump (both women are official members of his reelection campaign) — will swarm the state on caucus day, Feb. 3.
“The Iowa caucuses are a chance to flex the organizational muscles of President Trump’s campaign,” his campaign spokesperson, Tim Murtaugh, told BuzzFeed News. “The caucuses will be a good workout for our ground game as we prepare to win Iowa in November.”
Several members of Trump’s cabinet — including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, as well as Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney — will be heading to Iowa. Some of the president’s loudest supporters in Congress, heightened since the House launched an impeachment inquiry against him, will also be on hand, including Reps. Liz Cheney, Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, Matt Gaetz, and Elise Stefanik. Jerry Falwell Jr. and Mike Lindell, the inventor of MyPillow, whose ads feature incessantly on Fox News and who has been a regular at Trump rallies, are also heading to Iowa.
Trump is not actually in any danger in the state’s Republican caucuses. Two Republicans — former member of the House Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld — are running against Trump for the Republican nomination, but they’ve barely gotten any traction. This giant Trump push isn’t really about being scared of either of them.
“Our Caucus Day operation is just a preview of what is to come,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “We are putting the Democrats on notice — good luck trying to keep up with this formidable re-election machine.”
The focus on Iowa is just as much about pleasing the president as it is about flexing the muscles of the campaign, which has raised much more money than any of the potential Democratic nominees so far.
Battling impeachment in DC, while personally loathe to lose any of the spotlight, Trump’s effort in Iowa will be an attempt to try to ensure that Democrats can’t steal the day. In the past, Trump has held rallies in the middle of massive news events, only to squander the opportunity to set a new narrative, rambling instead about wind turbines and dishwashers to an adoring crowd that boosts his ego.
Speaking in Minneapolis in mid-October, at his first rally since the House announced it would launch an impeachment inquiry against him, Trump famously reenacted text messages between former FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strzok before accusing Democrats of being “on a crusade to destroy our democracy,” renewing his attacks on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. At a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, on Dec. 18, the day the House voted to impeach him, Trump spent more time focused on lightbulbs and home appliances than the process in DC. “Dishwashers, we did the dishwasher, right? You press it — remember the dishwasher, you press it, boom, they'd be like an explosion.” He spoke for more than an hour both times, appearing to revel in the distraction and the immediate attention.
Trump has been working to wiggle his way into the Democratic primary for months. Attacking Democrats has long been a feature of Trump’s speeches and tweets, complete with ever-lengthening nicknames. He and his campaign have been painting the candidates with a broad brush as “Radical Left,” and have recently begun to focus more on Bernie Sanders, adding to his obsession with Joe Biden, which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
Trump is expected to return to DC after his rally, while his surrogates will be in Iowa the day of the caucus on Feb 3. He is expected to give his State of the Union address the following day.