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Donald Trump calls for Iowa supporters to caucus, says ‘nothing’s over’ for 2024

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Donald Trump calls for Iowa supporters to caucus, says ‘nothing’s over’ for 2024

Dec 02, 2023 | 8:19 pm ET
By Robin Opsahl
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Donald Trump calls for Iowa supporters to caucus, says ‘nothing’s over’ for 2024
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Former President Donald Trump throws red "Trump" hats into the crowd during his campaign rally at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids Dec. 2, 2023. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

CEDAR RAPIDS — With six weeks left until the Iowa caucuses, former president Donald Trump largely spent his time in Iowa criticizing President Joe Biden instead of going after his Republican rivals — but told supporters to not listen to claims that the primary is already “over.”

“Don’t listen to that, don’t listen,” Trump said. “Nothing’s over. I’ve seen things that are over and bad things can happen. You got to get to the polls, you’ve got to get in the caucus and you’ve got to do your job and we’re going to win.”

The former president addressed a crowd at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids Saturday afternoon, taking over the college’s basketball court and bleachers for the rally.

He accused the current administration of weaponizing the government and justice system against a political opponent — himself. Trump currently faces criminal and civil cases in multiple states, and some state courts are deliberating whether Trump can be kept off the ballot in 2024.

“This campaign is a righteous crusade to liberate our republic from Biden and the criminals in the Biden administration,” Trump told the crowd.

Trump waved off comments from national media claiming Democrats want him to become the GOP nominee because they believe Biden would win in a 2020 rematch.

“If they wanted to run against me, they wouldn’t have indicted me four times,” Trump said.

According to aggregated poll data from Real Clear Politics, Trump leads the Republican field at 47% in Iowa, and 62% nationally. But other candidates hope to use the Iowa caucuses to stop Trump from coasting to the nomination. At the same time as Trump’s event in Cedar Rapids, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held an event in Newton, completing the s0-called “full Grassley” by holding events in all 99 Iowa counties.

DeSantis, who holds a distant second place to Trump in some national and early state polls, is hoping to pull an upset at the Iowa caucuses. He has the support of influential Iowa Republicans like Gov. Kim Reynolds, Family Leader President and CEO Bob Vander Plaats and state lawmakers like House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl, who joined him at the Saturday event.

Vander Plaats has said DeSantis’ caucus performance will set the stage for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination cycle. If Trump wins Iowa, Vander Plaats said, it likely means Trump will easily win the nomination. But if a rival like DeSantis wins, he said, it means there’s appetite among Republicans for a serious race.

“If one of these others rises up to be the alternative to Trump, and they win the Iowa caucuses, I think now America’s gonna see game on,” Vander Plaats said. “And they’re going to have to make a choice, of who do they want to be their nominee? So they got Iowa is very crucial in this go-around.”

Trump’s campaign hopes to stave off a potentially more competitive 2024 nominating cycle by winning big in Iowa.

Before the president took the stage, campaign videos explaining how to caucus for Trump on Jan. 15, 2024 played on a screen above the stage. A panel of Iowa GOP leaders and Trump caucus captains answered common questions about Iowa Republicans’ caucus process.

Trump has also focused on combatting Reynolds’ endorsement specifically — he has criticized both Reynolds and DeSantis for “disloyalty” on social media, as he endorsed both of their gubernatorial reelection campaigns in 2022.

On Friday, his campaign launched a six-figure TV ad buy in Iowa that included a commercial featuring previous footage of Reynolds praising the Trump administration, ABC News reported. But in Iowa Saturday, the former president repeated his criticisms of Reynolds’ support for DeSantis.

““I mean, that was her choice to do this,” Trump said. “But I believe in loyalty.”

Bill Stilich, a retired teacher from Cedar Rapids area, said he believes Trump will easily win the Iowa caucuses, regardless of DeSantis’ Iowa endorsements or recent voter interest in former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Stilich said he believes Republicans going against Trump will do more to hurt their own political prospects than Trump’s 2024 campaign.

Stilich said he was a big supporter of Reynolds until her endorsement of the Florida governor in November.

“It definitely hurt her …. yet, by the same token, she’s done a lot for the state,” he said. “But I just don’t appreciate her as much.”

Trump’s campaign also featured Iowa endorsers, including Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird and former acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who called for Iowans to show up to the  caucuses.

Mark Lucas, the founder of the Iowa chapter for Americans for Prosperity, endorsed Trump at the Cedar Rapids event. Lucas, who is no longer affiliated with AFP, said he was disappointed that the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity PAC put their support behind Haley. Though Lucas said he was a big proponent of the Iowa caucuses, he believed the 2024 primary was “done.”

He said Trump was the biggest threat to President Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential election, claiming that Biden was “weaponizing” government to hurt Trump’s election, pointing to the former president’s legal battles and efforts to remove Trump from state ballots.

“The stakes in this election cycle are just too high for me to stand on the sidelines,” Lucas said.