DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Donald Trump continued his autumn push in Iowa on Saturday with presidential campaign events planned in two of the leadoff caucus state’s larger cities.
Trump’s afternoon stops in Waterloo and Cedar Rapids will be his third and fourth in a little more than two weeks, part of a stepped-up campaign schedule as the opening contest for the 2024 Republican nomination approaches.
Trump drew 1,700 people in Waterloo for an event aimed at encouraging attendees to pledge to support him in the caucuses, which are scheduled for Jan. 15. Hundreds more people waited outside, a sign of his dominance in the state and nationally.
“We have to win this. We have to win it big,” he told the crowd. “We’re going to do numbers we’ve never done.”
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The former president blamed President Joe Biden for Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel, alleging Biden had demonstrated weakness that emboldened U.S. adversaries. He also renewed his attacks on New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office is pursuing a civil fraud case currently on trial. Trump called James “grossly incompetent” and “an evil person.”
James has accused Trump of grossly inflating the value of his assets in making business deals and securing loans. A judge ruled last month that Trump had committed fraud and the ongoing trial is to determine potential penalties.
Campaign advisers have said they expect Trump to win the caucuses, which are precinct-level, party-run meetings where party members also register the first votes of the 2024 GOP campaign.
Other campaigns are trying to cut into his lead in Iowa.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ‘ team announced this past week that it was moving roughly 20 of his Florida-based national campaign staff to Iowa, emphasizing the effort to beat Trump there. Nikki Haley, a former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor who has drawn increased attention due to her noteworthy debate performances, is beginning to build out her Iowa team.
“My sense of it is that there is lots of time left,” said strategist David Kochel, a senior Iowa and national adviser to previous Republican presidential candidates. “And Iowa is going to tell us something really meaningful and Trump shouldn’t take it for granted.”
After Trump’s loosely organized Iowa campaign produced a second-place finish in Iowa in 2016, his team says it is now running a more disciplined, data-driven campaign in the state. At his rallies, people are directed to a text number that tracks their interest in supporting the candidate, as well as representing him at the caucuses and volunteering for the campaign.
Trump had planned to host a Des Moines kickoff organizing event in May where advisers expected a crowd of roughly 5,000, but that appearance was scrubbed at the last minute due to the threat of severe weather.
After late summer stops at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines and Iowa State-Iowa football game in Ames, Trump drew large crowds in rural eastern Iowa as well as Dubuque last month and Ottumwa last Sunday. Those were areas he won in the 2016 caucuses and carried as the GOP nominee in 2016 and 2020.
Trump is scheduled to return to Iowa on Oct. 16.