Here in Iowa on Wednesday night, the Donald Trump machine was plugging away.
As supporters filled the Burlington Memorial Auditorium, volunteers in Make America Great Again hats and shirts canvassed the crowd – handing out voter information cards and encouraging them to caucus for the front-runner.
On stage, Tana Goertz, Trump’s Iowa Co-Chair, sounded more like she was leading a pep rally than opening for a stump speech. Goertz asked the crowd of 2,500 to turn to their neighbors and tell them “one thing you like about Donald Trump.” The crowd did as they were asked and Goertz exclaimed, “Congratulations! You just caucused for Donald Trump.”
It was the same speech NBC News saw Goertz give in Waterloo, Iowa, a few weeks ago and yet another sign, the campaign is taking their ground game seriously in this caucus state.
The campaign now says they have caucus leaders for all 99 counties, but that they are really focusing on Iowa’s 1,700 precincts.
Trump’s Iowa ground team is being run by the same guy who managed to give Rick Santorum the only moment of political glory he’s had in eight years by giving him a win there in 2012. If he could do that with Santorum’s resources and personality, imagine what wonders he can achieve with Trump.
In the end, Santorum’s Iowa victory in the last cycle didn’t do him much good. It will be a very different story if Trump prevails there, however. Conventional wisdom (which really isn’t that wise lately) has it that Trump will be able to ride high in the polls this year due to name recognition and all the free media he gets but will begin to falter once everyday Republican voters hit the primaries, or caucuses in this case. Should Trump win in Iowa, conventional wisdom types will go from zero-to-bleeding-ulcer over night. Given his ability to capitalize on even the smallest things so far, he may be able to turn a first place Iowa finish into a snowball that rolls over all of the competition.