- The Washington Times - Monday, February 3, 2020

President Trump romped victory Monday on the Republican side of an Iowa caucus that was low key, competitive in name only and overshadowed by an unwieldy Democratic contest.

With nearly all counties in, Mr. Trump swept up over 97% of the votes while former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois each barely cracked 1%.

Rather than sweat his GOP opponents’ Sisyphean efforts, Mr. Trump is looking ahead to November, hoping to blunt Democrats’ momentum and super-charge his candidacy in the heartland as his impeachment trial winds down.

The president dispatched family members, his campaign manager and his housing secretary across the state to vouch for him at churches, schools and other caucus sites.

As an incumbent, Mr. Trump was always expected to trounce his primary challengers in the low-profile contest.

But he held one of his trademark rallies in Des Moines last week and issued last-minute pleas online, hoping to pump up his supporters after Democrats soaked up headlines in the state for a year.

“Republicans in Iowa, go out and Caucus today,” the president tweeted Monday. “Your great Trade Deals with China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, South Korea and more, are DONE. Great times are coming, after waiting for decades, for our Farmers, Ranchers, Manufacturers and ALL. Nobody else could have pulled this off!”

With 98% of counties reporting, Mr. Trump received nearly 28,000 votes compared to 366 for Mr. Weld and 338 Mr. Walsh. Nearly 140 voted wrote down another name, listed as “other.”

The Iowa GOP said turnout exceeded that of similarly situated caucuses in prior years.

“What a way to kick off President Trump’s re-election campaign — with decisive, record-breaking caucus results,” said Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa. “I have no doubt the energy and enthusiasm we saw tonight will carry through this election.”

Easing toward acquittal in his impeachment trial, Mr. Trump has solidified his hold on the Republican Party. Still, his party opponents grappled for attention.

Mr. Weld recently touted an endorsement from former Rep. Jim Leach, a Republican from Davenport, and hit the pavement early Monday before he lurches into a make-or-break push in New Hampshire.

Mr. Walsh, meanwhile, has been tweeting photos of him speaking one-on-one with voters in Iowa cafes and bakeries, contrasting it to Mr. Trump’s from-the-stage approach to campaigning.

The former congressman also said he tried to campaign among Trump supporters waiting in line for the Trump rally. He was dispirited.

“A few people told me that Trump, unlike Obama, has never golfed,” Mr. Walsh tweeted. “Nobody in line knew that Trump was increasing the debt way faster than Obama.”

Mr. Weld, by contrast, focused on his next steps amid doubts he or Mr. Walsh could scrape together the 15% minimum to win delegates in Iowa.

“I don’t think there’s any such rule in New Hampshire, and I have 250 days there, and I think Congressman Walsh has been spending a good bit of time in Iowa,” he told Fox Business Network. “So, we’ll just have to wait and see. But the atmospherics, in terms of people we meet, all over, all kinds of people, is good.”

Mr. Trump remained in Washington as he prepared to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress Tuesday. But his team sent 80 surrogates to speak on his behalf at sites among the 1,682 precincts in the state.

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., spoke at a church in Ames, while his girlfriend — senior campaign adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle — addressed another church in Newton.

Mr. Trump’s second adult son, Eric, spoke at a school in Norwalk while his wife, Lara, attended the meet up at Northview Middle School in Ankeny.

Campaign manager Brad Parscale showed up at Walnut Hills Elementary in Urbandale, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson spoke at a Lutheran Church in Clive.

Surrogates for the other candidates were also allotted several minutes to speak.

Voters were then handed slips of paper and asked to write down their preferred candidate.

“They can write down Mickey Mouse if they want and I guarantee some will,” Iowa GOP spokesman Aaron Britt told The Washington Times ahead of caucus night.

While turnout was robust under the circumstances, it was eclipsed by the fervor on the competitive Democratic side.

Dave Peterson, a politics professor at Iowa State University, said he didn’t expect much from the Republican side, noting President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign tried to elevate the 2012 Iowa caucuses to test-run some of their data.

“But even then,” he said, “attendance was quite low.”

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