'All the political money and media attention is now concentrated in this place'

'All the political money and media attention is now concentrated in this place'

Donald Trump at the Fox News Debate Night on January 10, 2024 in Des Moines, Iowa.Image by Joe Radle/Getty

Hi Thomas, Why does a Republican primary in a state get so much attention?

'That's simple: Only Iowa is already holding primaries. Therefore, the state is the first real indicator of how candidates are performing, outside of elections. The next primaries aren't until February 24. That's why there's been nothing about Iowa for weeks now.

“Even though it's a small state, Iowa is very important to media dynamics. If candidates do better or worse here than expected, it will affect how voters feel about them in primaries in the following states. So all the political money and media attention is now focused on this place.

In 2016, Donald Trump unexpectedly finished second here, after which his chances were suddenly assessed as very high. Voters in other states who had considered him a curiosity rather than a serious candidate suddenly saw him as a serious contender. We know how that ended.

What kind of state is Iowa?

“This is not a state representative of the entire United States. Iowa is located in the Midwest, very white, conservative Christian and right-wing. Also, the state has Dutch roots. Many of the surnames I come across here are of Dutch origin.

'During election time here, citizens don't go to vote. Instead, a body called a caucus is organized. Citizens discuss in community centers, libraries and gymnasiums, try to convince each other, and only then submit their wishes. There are a few states that have something similar, but Iowa goes far. Voters can often explain their preferences to neighbors.

Who is on the list of Republican candidates this time?

'Trump is at his peak. According to polls, he can count on more than half of the votes. That's a big lead. He is followed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Nikki Haley follows, then Vivek Ramasamy. And then there's Asa Hutchinson, but he's so fringe that you forget about him.

What do you notice on the streets of Iowa during the primaries?

'With all the Republican candidates in Iowa, there's a lot of life here. I attended the Haley, Ramasamy and DeSantis meetings for a day and a half. I was also going to go to the Trump one, but he had to cancel due to the blizzard currently hitting Iowa.

At the same time, you notice that the people of Iowa sometimes have more fearful thoughts about politics than anywhere else in the United States. You see some propaganda signs. Countless people still say they have to make their choice, which is very different from what I hear elsewhere. Since all residents have the luxury of seeing the candidates up close and asking questions, there is less blind campaigning among themselves. However, I hear from everyone that they are being harassed by various campaign groups. Every vote counts here.'

Do criminal charges against Trump still play a role?

'No not really. A majority of Republican voters in Iowa embrace Trump. They believe him when he says that criminal cases are not based on facts but a form of political protest. You hear critical voices about Trump only among a small segment of voters who support Haley.'

What will you focus on this primary?

'All the candidates except Trump are now fighting for second place. DeSantis has focused all of his campaign dollars on Iowa. He visited all 99 municipalities here. If you can't beat Trump, at least show you can get close to him. But in the meantime, Haley has been rising in the polls over the past month. If he can beat DeSantis in religious Iowa, he won't be Trump's biggest challenge. I wonder how long DeSantis will be in the race.

Is there really anything at stake for Democrats these days?

'No not really. Normally the Democratic primaries start here too, but they have changed their rules. For them, the primaries in South Carolina don't start until next month. All things considered, the Democratic Party has no competitive primary this year, with incumbent President Joe Biden running for office with the party's endorsement.'

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