POLITICS & ELECTIONS

GOP candidates make last-minute appeals to Iowa voters a day before caucuses

Jan 14, 2024, 12:22 PM | Updated: 1:25 pm

Republican presidential candidate former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event...

Republican presidential candidate former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at the Thunder Bay Grille on January 13, 2024 in Davenport, Iowa. Iowa Republicans will be the first to select their party's nominee for the 2024 presidential race when they go to caucus on January 15, 2024. (Win McNamee, Getty Images)

(Win McNamee, Getty Images)

With just one day to go until Iowa’s presidential caucuses, the candidates are urging their supporters to brave bone-chilling cold and blustery wind to help carry them through Republicans’ leadoff voting contest.

The final Des Moines Register/NBC News poll before Monday night’s caucuses found former President Donald Trump maintaining a formidable lead, supported by nearly half of likely caucusgoers. Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor, and Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, remain locked in a close battle for second.

Trump, Haley and DeSantis are fanning out across Iowa on Sunday to meet with voters. Already, Haley was forced to cancel an in-person stop because of poor weather conditions.

What to know

Who’s running for president? Here are the 2024 candidates

Iowa’s winter blast could make an unrepresentative way of picking nominees even more so

Iowa’s sparsely populated northwest is a key GOP caucus battleground

Feeling caucus confusion? Your guide to how Iowa works

‘Go back to Mommy,’ Trump tells protesters who crash his rally

INDIANOLA — Trump’s rally was briefly interrupted by protesters — the first time it’s happened in years.

“You’ve taken millions!” a woman shouted as Trump was mid-rally, prompting the crowd to respond with a “Trump!” chant to drown her out.

“Go back to Mommy,” Trump responded as she was led out of the room. “So young and immature.”

Moments later came another protester, this one holding a black and yellow banner that read “Trump Climate Criminal.” He shouted the same thing. The same group interrupted a DeSantis town hall and a separate event for the Florida governor in Ames last week.

When he was running in 2016, Trump’s events were routinely interrupted by protesters.

“That used to happen all the time,” Trump remarked. “It always adds excitement.”

Couple heads to DeSantis event after Haley’s stop canceled

DUBUQUE — Judy and Brad Knowler drove a few miles from Peosta to hear Haley in Dubuque. A couple of hours later, after Haley’s in-person stop was canceled, they found themselves down the road at an event for DeSantis.

Brad, 67, is sure he’ll support Haley in Monday’s caucuses, but Judy, 64, was hoping to hear her in person to “give me a little bit more confidence.” From debates and negative political ads, she said, “it’s really hard to see the real person.”

“I have one foot in Nikki’s camp, but we’ll see,” she said as she waited for DeSantis to take the stage. “It’s an opportunity most Americans don’t get to be this close in person.”

Trump says Iowa win would be a victory over the ‘liars, cheaters’

INDIANOLA — Trump sounded a message of vengeance at his only Iowa rally this weekend.

“These caucuses are your personal chance to score the ultimate victory over all of the liars, cheaters, thugs, perverts, frauds, crooks, freaks, creeps and other quite nice people,” he said at a commit-to-caucus event in Indianola.

“The Washington swamp has done everything in its power to take away your voice,” Trump added. “But tomorrow is your time to turn on them and to say and speak your mind and to vote. And we’re going to take this country back.”

‘Walk on glass’ for Trump? These supporters would

INDIANOLA — Marc Smiarowski hunched to fight off the minus 18-degree chill outside the Kent Student Center on Simpson College campus Sunday morning, waiting for doors to open for former President Donald Trump’s midday rally at the small school south of Des Moines.

But as the weak winter sun hung low in the sky, a sense of bitterness burned in Smiarowski.

“I’m here in part out of spite,” said the 44-year-old public utility worker, who drove 40 miles to be there. “I can’t abandon him. After what they did to him in the last election, and the political persecution he faces, I feel like I owe him this. He’s our only option.”

“No one else could handle what he’s facing,” added his friend Kailie Johnson, a 26-year-old dental hygienist from the same small town of Huneston.

More than 30 minutes before the center opened, more than 100 people stood in line while layered in Carhartt coveralls with hats and hoods pulled down tight. It was a test run for Iowa’s caucuses Monday and of the devotion Trump said last week would make his supporters “walk on glass” for him.

Haley skips in-person campaign stop over weather

DUBUQUE — Haley’s campaign stop in Dubuque was canceled Sunday morning because of poor travel conditions, the campaign said about an hour before the scheduled event.

Voters walking into the venue were given the news by campaign staffers, who offered some a T-shirt, hat or yard sign as consolation.

John Schmid, 69, was already waiting at the venue when the event was called off.

“I don’t blame her,” said the retiree from Asbury, a few miles outside Dubuque. He’s already a Haley supporter, but he wanted to see the “refreshing” candidate in person. He hopes Haley will do well in Monday’s caucuses, which he’ll be at despite the bitter cold.

“It’s just part of living in Iowa in January,” he said.

Haley swapped the in-person event with a virtual town hall.

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GOP candidates make last-minute appeals to Iowa voters a day before caucuses