By Jarrett Renshaw and Tim Reid
DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s campaign plans to blanket Iowa with representatives and events ahead of the state’s Feb. 3 caucuses, hoping to use the first-in-the-nation primary to show evidence of his strength in rural America, sources tell Reuters.
The Republican incumbent faces no real primary opposition. As a dozen Democrats battle in their own caucuses to take him on in November, Trump’s campaign sees Iowa’s vote as a chance to offer a counter narrative to the impeachment turmoil he faces in Washington, the sources said.
Trump will hold a campaign rally in Des Moines just days before the caucuses, which also provide an opportunity to test his campaign’s organizational muscle and experiment with new techniques to get out the vote ahead of the general election.
“We will be going big, very Trump-like,” said a campaign advisor involved in the Iowa planning.
A two-day Women for Trump bus tour across the state kicked off on Thursday with an event that drew roughly 500 people to a Des Moines ballroom.
The boisterous crowd of Trump supporters were greeted by calls to combat the dangers of “socialist” Democrats and praises of Trump’s record during his first term in the White House.
Mercedes Schlapp, a senior member of Trump’s 2020 re-election team, said in an interview with Reuters that campaign representatives will be familiar faces in Iowa over the next couple weeks.
“We’re definitely going to have a presence here,” she said. “Iowa is where elections begin, and we want to make sure President Trump is well represented here and has a voice.”
Trump saw major support from rural America in the 2016 election but has tested that loyalty as president. His trade wars with China and Mexico – major buyers of U.S. agricultural products – hurt U.S. farmers and prompted Trump to support billions of dollars in direct payments to farmers to blunt the trading loss.
He comes into Iowa with momentum after signing the first phase of a new trade deal with China and a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.
Republican Party of Iowa organizers plan to host a preference poll during the caucuses. Voters will be given a blank ballot on which to write in the name of the person they want to run for president, according to a state party spokesman. The results, which will be collected via a phone app, will be reported publicly that night, the spokesman said.
Unlike the Democratic caucuses, there are no viability thresholds, such as getting 15% of support, on the Republican side.
Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh are challenging Trump in the primary but are not considered viable candidates.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in New York and Tim Reid in Des Moines, Iowa; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Chizu Nomiyama)