Thousands of residents turned up in an events center near the Mississippi on Tuesday evening to hear a speech from Donald Trump. Trump’s bombastic larger than life appeal has been taunted to be the reason he is able to attract thousands of people to his events. However, can he convince gawkers into loyal supporters enough to register as Republicans and vote for him in the oncoming caucuses next year?
Judging by tonight’s presentation, the answer could well be a resounding ‘yes.’
Trump’s surging presidential campaign is rooted more on his star power and name recognizability than his conservative ideologies, a factor that has served his presidential ambitions well in terms of the numbers he is pulling.
Trump’s top Iowa organizer, Chuck Laudner, said “I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s drawing crowds that most candidates only get in the weeks before the general election.”
Trump’s star power has overwhelmingly wowed traditional Iowan voters, completely upending the retail politics the state is known for. When Trump landed in a helicopter at the beginning of the month at the Iowa State Fair, he was immediately mobbed by thousands of fans. Last week when he was in Mobile, Alabama, he almost filled a sports gymnasium.
Laudner said, “His reach is just so far beyond what the rest of these guys can do combined. It’s all new territory.”
When these residents come to the Grand River Center on Tuesday to listen to the Donald, they will be recruited by Trump’s staff into precinct captains, staff, organizers and volunteers. All of whom will help in building the Trump brand ahead of the caucuses next year.
Recent winners in Iowa were either candidates with superior resources and very strong organizations such as George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 or conservatives who appeal to the state’s many evangelicals like Mike Huckabee in 2012.
Trump could easily use his vast resources to create momentum in the state. His next well funded Republican competition Jeb Bush is not very popular in the state.
Trump is also set to use the same resources to build a formidable ground organization in the state, to reach the grass roots, starting with Laudner and his recruits at the events places.
An Iowan Republican consultant said of Laudner, “Chuck Laudner is a deity among conservative activists. Chuck is somebody who values grassroots mobilization. This is a guy who eats and breathes organizational structure."
Trump has structured his team under ten full time paid workers who will run state affairs and he looks poised to add more. A more recent tactic he is using is to send a large tour bus with his Trump logo embossed on it around the state from county to county, drawing crowds even though only one or two staff are present inside, not Trump himself. The bus even has a Facebook page.
John Hulzier, Trump’s coordinator for the northern part of Iowa state said, "We want to make sure we hit every county in the state of Iowa."
A majority of voters in the state are union workers aggrieved by the loss of jobs to foreigners. Trump’s staff is largely convinced that Trump could be the candidate to convince the so called Reagan Democrats to vote for him during the elections. Laudner added that in Trump, the aggrieved will find an empathetic friend.
So far, it seems to be working very well.
Trump continued to draw large crowds this evening in Dubuque, Iowa and looked every bit the GOP, and presidential, front-runner. After briefly having his security remove Univision journalist Jorge Ramos for heckling, Trump allowed him back and engaged him at length on the issue of immigration, putting on a masterful performance of controlling the dialog and looking like a born leader.
Trump was then introduced to a crowd of several thousand by right wing commentator Ann Coulter, in a ceremony that may as well have been his GOP coronation.
But beyond the flash, Trump looked savvy, with his team running a traditional Iowan campaign; handing out hats, buttons and t-shirts as they registered voters and assigned staunch supporters key roles.
When Donald Trump told the crowd “I wish the election was tomorrow!” he wasn’t kidding. He’s ready and his political machine appears to be too.