- The Washington Times - Monday, January 25, 2016

PELLA, Iowa — As Jeff Ridley stood in line on a cold, windy day for more than an hour with his wife and daughter for a recent rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, he said that he never got involved in politics but was coming off the sidelines this year to caucus for Mr. Trump.

The 55-year-old farrier already had located the caucus site in his precinct.

“We’ve got to caucus. I think this country is in imminent danger and Trump is the way out,” he said. “I think we’re in trouble now.”

Mr. Ridley is the type of voter who experts say has the potential to put Mr. Trump over the top on caucus night.

The chief obstacle here for Mr. Trump is getting an army of fans who don’t usually participate to show up for the Feb. 1 caucuses. But experts say not only is it doable but also he enjoys the advantage of having supporters who believe they are fighting for a greater cause.

Mr. Trump has been gaining momentum and widening his lead in the polls with less than a week until Iowa’s lead-off nominating contest. But his success — and every candidate’s success — will depend on the ability to get voters to brave the cold on caucus night and spend hours at a church, school or community center demonstrating their support.

That task becomes more difficult when supporters, like many of Mr. Trump‘s, have never been to a caucus before and don’t know where to go or what to except.

“I think it can be done,” said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and an expert on Iowa presidential politics.

Mr. Yepsen credited the Trump campaign with working hard to make sure people know where and when to caucus and what to expect. And he pointed out that then-Sen. Barack Obama managed to turn out new voters when he won Iowa’s Democratic caucuses in 2008.

Looking back to 2008, the profile of Mr. Obama’s first-time supporters was different. He attracted young, college-educated voters who hadn’t caucused before and were perhaps voting for the first time since turning 18.

By comparison, Mr. Trump has attracted many blue-collar workers and white voters without a college degree who have stayed out of the political process for years.

Jamie Johnson, a GOP operative in Iowa who previously worked as national director of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, said Mr. Trump has sparked a movement that’s bigger than a presidential campaign, compelling his followers to take action and caucus.

Donald Trump gives his supporters a cause in a way that no other presidential candidate is able to articulate,” Mr. Johnson said. “Secure the borders, defeat terrorism and make America great again. That’s it. It’s four words. It sounds corny, but it’s not.

“‘Make America great again,’” he said, repeating Mr. Trump’s campaign slogan. “Every college kid, every blue-collar worker, every retiree who remembers the good old days of the 1950s — that phrase appeals to them, and nobody has come up with a better phrase for a presidential campaign in my lifetime.”

Mr. Trump has made explaining the caucus process a staple of his stump speech. He tells the crowds to expect brief speeches from people supporting each of the Republican candidates and a secret ballot on which they can mark “Donald Trump.”

He also directs them to a caucus-finder tool on the campaign website. It shows voters where to go on caucus night and includes an instructional video on what to do upon arriving at the caucus location.

“You have to caucus on [Feb.] 1. You have to,” Mr. Trump told the rally here at Central College. “I say it with fun, but I mean it. You could have a bad day, you could lose your job. If you lose your wife, if you lose your husband — I don’t care. Go caucus.”

The crowd erupted with laughter, cheers and applause.

“If you don’t,” he continued, “it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to get there. And we want to get there.”

It also bodes well for Mr. Trump that supporters locate rallies, show up and stand in line in the cold to attend.

“It’s not that much of a leap of faith to say, ‘Well, if I can do that, I can sure find a caucus, particularly if someone is helping me to go and telling me I’ve got to go to this schoolhouse at this time, and here’s what’s going to happen,’” said Mr. Yepsen.

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