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State of the Race: Blizzard derails Iowa campaign events; will below zero temps depress caucus turnout

The bitterly cold weather descending on Iowa threatens to put a chill on turnout at Monday night's caucuses, which lead off the Republican presidential nominating calendar

The blizzard conditions across Iowa that sidetracked the presidential campaign trail three days ahead of the state’s caucuses were just the first punch.

Now comes frigid below zero temperatures, which are forecast for the weekend and into next week. 

And the bitterly cold weather threatens to put a chill on turnout at Monday night’s caucuses, which lead off the Republican presidential nominating calendar.


The blast of winter weather didn’t stop Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis from holding an early morning event Friday in suburban Des Moines.

HEAVY SNOW, HIGH WINDS, CURTAIL CAMPAIGNING

“I’m really impressed that so many people came out, given the weather,” DeSantis said to the crowd who came out to hear him and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds — who’s backing him — addressed the crowd at a meeting of the Northside Conservatives Club.

Minutes later, DeSantis pledged in a Fox News Digital interview that “I’m going to show up” and emphasized that with the clock ticking toward the caucuses, “I’m going to use every minute I can to be able to win votes.”

While the weather didn’t sidetrack DeSantis’ first campaign stop of the day, his remaining four stops in northern, central and eastern Iowa, which were being organized by Never Back Down, his aligned super PAC, were postponed.

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DeSantis did head over to his campaign headquarters in suburban Des Moines in the afternoon to speak with volunteers who were making calls to urge supporters to attend Monday’s caucuses.

Due to the rough road conditions across the Hawkeye State, the campaign of former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley canceled their in-person events on Friday and instead held tele-town halls, which they said were well-attended.

“I’m sorry I’m not in Fort Dodge, but it was important for me to talk to you,” Haley emphasized at the top of one of her events.

Of the three major candidates in Iowa on Friday, only multi-millionaire biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy kept to his in-person campaign schedule despite the dangerous weather.

The effects of the winter blast lingered into the weekend, with Donald Trump’s campaign canceling three of the four in-person rallies the former president was scheduled to headline on Saturday and Sunday.

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The big question moving forward is whether the below zero temperatures will take a bite out of turnout on Monday night. 

DeSantis, who polls indicate is battling Haley for a distant second place in Iowa behind commanding front-runner Trump, was confident the frigid temperatures wouldn’t deter his supporters.

“We have a lot of people that we have signed up to commit to for us over many months. I think they’re motivated, they’re passionate, and they’re going to show up,” DeSantis told Fox News. “What about the broader electorate? I just don’t know. But I’m confident our people are going to come out strong.”

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DeSantis supporters that heard him speak Friday morning agreed.

“A little bit of cold can’t keep you away,” said Brian Miller of Ankeny, who brought his two young sons with him to see DeSantis. 

And Laura Murphy, another Ankeny resident, emphasized “it’s important. We need people in numbers to come out Monday. We’re Iowans. We can handle it.”

Linda Burk, another DeSantis supporter, said she would also brave to below zero temperatures on Monday night to attend a caucus. But Burk, an older voter, added that “it depends on the weather for people my age.”

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Haley, speaking to supporters on a tele-town hall, acknowledged “I know that on January 15th, it is going to be negative 19. I know it’s asking a lot of you to go out and caucus, but I also know we have a country to save. And I will be out there in the cold. And I know Iowans take this in a very serious way.”

“If you go out, please remember to bring your I.D. with you. Please wear layers of clothes just in case there are lines so that you are staying safe,” she stressed.

Longtime Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann was confident that the frigid forecast wouldn’t keep Iowans home on caucus night.

“Out of everything – snow, ice and the cold temperatures – the cold temperatures worry me the least,” he told Fox News on Friday.

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Pointing to the blizzard conditions as he was interviewed, Kaufmann said “if it was today. I would be worried. On Monday, we’re going to have two days of clearing off the roads. There doesn’t appear to be any ice. There doesn’t appear to be any wind. Iowans can handle the cold. And they know exactly what to do to keep themselves safe.”

It was a similar prediction from Will Rogers, the former Polk County GOP chair. 

“Look, we’re Iowans. It’s January in the Midwest, winter. We expect it to be cold,” he told reporters. “Yes, this may be the coldest caucus on record. I still think with the number of campaigns and what they’ve been doing, we’re going to have tremendous turnout.” 

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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