Political insiders in Iowa have a warning: Don’t underestimate Donald Trump’s ground game.
Experts inside and outside the GOP tell The Hill it would be a mistake to think Trump’s organization is operating on a wing and a prayer when it comes to getting his supporters to caucus sites around Iowa on Monday night.
“I think his campaign is better organized than people give him credit for,” said David Yepsen, the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, who covered the caucuses over several decades for The Des Moines Register.
“His campaign has got a couple of good leaders in it that have done this before.”
Trump got another boost on Saturday when the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg released their new poll showing him leading his top rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), 28 percent to 23 percent. The previous version of the same poll, released Jan. 13, had him trailing the Texan 25 percent to 22 percent.
Still, Trump could have particular challenges when it comes to his ground game.
Polls show an unusually high share of his supporters have never caucused before, and detractors question whether they will show up for the business mogul.
Voting in a primary is one thing. It merely involves casting a ballot, and maybe standing in line.
Iowa’s caucuses by their nature are more time-consuming and confusing.
On Monday, caucus-goers will need to show up at a location at a particular hour (7 p.m. local time) and, in many cases, sit through short speeches by a designated supporter of each candidate. Votes are cast in the Republican caucuses by secret ballot. Democrats have a different system, where supporters of each candidate gather around one another in the room. Either way, the process places a premium on organization.
“It makes all the difference in the world,” said Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa who is not aligned with any presidential candidate.
Trump clearly understands the danger of his poll numbers failing to translate to support at the caucuses.
At a Saturday evening rally in a theater in the eastern Iowa city of Davenport, he told the audience, “We really are on the cusp of something so big.”
Read more: The Hill