Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
A winter blizzard froze the presidential nominating contest in Iowa this weekend, as Donald Trump and his Republican rivals cancelled campaign events with less than three days to go until the Iowa caucuses.
Trump remains the undisputed frontrunner heading into Monday’s caucuses, which will fire the starting gun on the Republican presidential nomination process and serve as an early test of the former president’s electoral strength among his party’s grassroots.
But Trump’s campaign suffered a setback when it was forced to cancel several planned events in the Midwestern state over the weekend, with the former president stranded in Florida amid record snowfall and heavy winds in Iowa. Trump is now expected to hold just one rally in Iowa this weekend, on Sunday afternoon.
“One way or another, I’m getting there. You have the worst weather, I guess, in recorded history,” Trump said in a video posted to social media late Friday. “But maybe that’s good, because our people are more committed than anybody else, so maybe it is actually a good thing for us.”
Trump’s rivals Florida governor Ron DeSantis and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley also pared back their schedules on Friday, but resumed most of their planned campaigning by midday on Saturday.
Trump and his allies have tried to temper expectations heading into the caucuses, aware that a closer than-expected finish could undercut the former president’s claim to being the party’s presumptive nominee.
The latest FiveThirtyEight average of opinion polls in the state shows Trump commands the support of roughly half of Republican voters, followed by Haley on about 17 per cent and DeSantis on around 16 points. Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy trails in a distant fourth place, with 6 per cent support.
But many have questioned whether Monday night’s results could be affected by the extreme winter weather. Iowans are no strangers to snowfall and cold temperatures. However, the blizzard that blanketed the state on Friday and Saturday is set to be followed by record-low temperatures that will stretch into Tuesday.
The current forecast for Des Moines, the state capital, is for temperatures as low as -19 degrees Fahrenheit, or -28 degrees Celsius, on caucus night, and the National Weather Service has warned of “life threatening wind chills”.
That has raised questions about whether voters will turn out to participate in the caucuses, local meetings that take place at schools, churches and other public places across the state. There is no absentee, mail-in, or early voting at caucuses. Instead, voters must turn up at 7pm local time to discuss the candidates with their neighbours before casting their ballots in a process that is likely to take several hours.
“What it does for the overall turnout, I mean, nobody can forecast what the turnout is gonna be,” DeSantis told reporters at a last-minute stop to greet his campaign volunteers on Friday afternoon. “Anyone that tells you they can do that is not it’s not being honest. It’s a major wild card.”
Dennis Goldford, a political-science professor at Drake University in Des Moines and an expert on caucuses, said that on the one hand, the bitter cold could deter older voters and voters in rural areas — two key sources of Trump’s support — from turning out.
“On the other hand, the most avid, the most enthused, the most activated folks will turn out come hell or high water — or icebergs,” he added, noting that Trump’s supporters have historically shown unparalleled enthusiasm for their candidate.
Goldford pointed out, however, that Trump’s biggest vulnerability could simply be his supporters’ belief that his win is guaranteed and there is no need for them to caucus.
“Trump is more worried about failing to meet expectations,” Goldberg said. “The expectations have been set sky high.”
Credit: Source link