Trump appears confident of victory in the snowstorm. But Iowa has often been good for a surprise

Double-digit temperatures below zero in Iowa are causing candidates to wonder whether their supporters will even go to the polls. Trump dismisses demonstrators, his pursuers fight for second place. Our reporter is on site.

In several places in the hall, young activists begin to shout. “Climate criminal,” they shout again and again, “climate criminal.” They hold up banners with their message on them for the television cameras. Donald Trump is taken aback for a moment, but quickly composes himself. “Go home to mom, your mom is waiting,” he says to a protester. The room laughs and chants: First “Trump, Trump, Trump,” then “USA, USA, USA.”

The former US President will be a guest at Simpson College in the small town of Indianola in Iowa on Sunday afternoon. In the US state in the Midwest, the Republican Party’s first primary election will take place on Monday evening – and with it begins a long election year that will culminate with the presidential election on November 5th.

Trump has now come here into the cold for the election campaign finale. A snowstorm had delayed his arrival. But neither the blizzard nor the demonstrators are changing the fact that Trump is the overwhelming favorite in the primary. Shortly before the election, the local newspaper “Des Moines Register” published one last survey. 48 percent of Republicans surveyed say they want to vote for Trump as presidential candidate. Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley can hope for 20 percent of the vote, Ron DeSantis for 16 percent. The entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy has 8 percent.

So what could go wrong for Trump? All candidates fear that the cold temperatures could mean that only a few eligible voters make the journey to the polling stations. More than 20 degrees below zero are expected in the state capital Des Moines on Monday evening. Who manages to motivate their followers best despite the adverse circumstances? Trump tries – as so often – with brutal rhetoric. “You can’t sit at home. When you’re sick like a dog, you say: Darling, I have to do it,” chants the ex-president. “And if you choose and then die, it’s worth it.”

Trump really wants to achieve a convincing result. His calculation: If he gets 50 percent of the vote or even more, he will demoralize his internal party competition. The sooner he can secure the Republican presidential nomination, the less he will have to worry about anyone becoming a threat to him if the upcoming court cases call his suitability as president into question.

Trump is celebrated like a pop star

His walk on stage at Simpson College shows that Trump is approaching the primary with a certain level of composure. When he gets there, he doesn’t immediately go to the microphone. Trump just stands there, waves and says “Thank you.” It goes on like this for minutes. The song “God Bless the USA” plays in the background. “I’m proud to be an American,” Lee Greenwood sings. “Where at least I know I’m free.” Here Trump is not only free, he is a pop star – and he enjoys bathing in the crowd.

Nikki Haley, his main pursuer, is completely different. On Thursday lunchtime last week she came to Toast in Ankeny, about 20 minutes from Des Moines. Weddings and family celebrations usually take place in the restaurant. But for Haley it’s not about partying, it’s about fighting. Get on stage and start right away, just don’t waste any time.

“You set the tone for the country,” Haley calls out to the packed hall. This is followed by a ride through their program: Inflation, national debt and taxes must finally be reduced and immigration via Mexico must be stopped. Anyone who comes into the country illegally should not only be caught and arrested, but should also be deported immediately. There is a lot of applause for all of this. Haley also talks about Ukraine. She wants to continue to support the country with weapons systems and ammunition so that Russia loses and does not get the idea of ​​attacking a NATO country after Ukraine. “I want to prevent us from going to war,” says the former UN ambassador, who served under Trump for two years. Many Republicans are now critical of aid to Ukraine, and Trump and DeSantis want to stop it. But in Ankeny, Haley is applauded for her position as an outsider.

She also talks about her former boss. “I think President Trump was the right president at the right time,” Haley said. But he attracts chaos. Haley wants to be seen as an alternative to Trump without condemning him. She cites polls that show Trump and Biden neck and neck. But she would be able to defeat the incumbent by up to 17 percentage points in the main election in the fall. Then cheers erupt. Voters want to feel like they are voting for someone who can win. Haley serves this longing.

Ron DeSantis is in a shambles

Ron DeSantis can hardly bet on that. One day after Haley, the governor of Florida is also coming to Ankeny. Shortly after seven o’clock he invites people to a public discussion. The blizzard is getting stronger at this time. DeSantis also promises an end to illegal immigration. He wants to finish building the wall that Trump once promised. And DeSantis asserts that he will take action against the “deep state” in Washington, DC. Many Republicans are convinced that a kind of state within a state has emerged – a powerful, but not electorally legitimized, bureaucracy that enacts rules that make the lives of many Americans more difficult.

DeSantis’ program is similar to Trump’s in many ways. When he entered the presidential race, he wanted to position himself as the better Trump. He came dangerously close in the polls for a while, but then fell back again. This is because Trump used the charges against him to rally the Republican Party behind him.

But it’s also up to DeSantis himself. At the community meeting in Ankeny, a boy wants to know what his favorite baseball memory is. DeSantis, who has always been said to come across as too stiff, would have had the chance to interact with the boy. Thanks for your great question. How old are you? Do you play baseball yourself? Instead, DeSantis talks about a game in New York in the late 1990s. And about the fact that he himself once experienced “successes and defeats” at college. For DeSantis, the boy’s question could have been a home run, but, as so often in recent months, he didn’t even run.

The governor seems like someone who is happy when he can finally travel back to his warm Florida. And if he actually comes in third or worse in Iowa, he could quickly declare the end of his candidacy.

So is everything really going as the pollsters and experts predict? There have been many surprises in Iowa. Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy is convinced that the polls misrepresent the political mood. The 38-year-old son of Indian immigrants traveled to Iowa more often and more than the other candidates combined. He has visited all 99 counties in the state at least twice. Trump, Haley and DeSantis have not done this once.

Ramaswamy doesn’t even want to bow to the snowstorm. Even on Friday and Saturday, when the blizzard is at its peak, he drives from one town hall to the next. Late on Friday evening he comes to the Comfort Inn & Suites hotel in West Des Moines. The highways have long since turned into ice tracks.

Ramaswamy is hoping for a surprise

Ramaswamy likes to present his program in short statements of faith. “God is real” is one of them. Another reads: “Human progress requires fossil fuels.” He wants to fire 75 percent of all federal civil servants and reduce America’s international role to a minimum so that he can concentrate fully on the systemic battle with China.

When the entrepreneur arrives in West Des Moines, a crowded hall awaits him. In the middle of the snowstorm, about 100 people came to hear Ramaswamy speak. After a few minutes he is interrupted by activists. They accuse him of making millions by investing in fossil energy. They are the same demonstrators as Trump. Unlike the ex-president, he doesn’t have them thrown out immediately. He gives some of them the microphone, lets them speak and then defends himself. He was unable to convince his critics that evening. But many others in the room were impressed that Ramaswamy tried it.

The self-made millionaire with extreme views is considered to have no chance in the further course of the primaries. But in Iowa he could be good for a surprise. That doesn’t fit into Donald Trump’s plan.