Snow Joke: Iowa Blizzard Cancels Events Just Days Before Caucuses

DES MOINES, Iowa — Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Donald Trump all canceled campaign events Friday amid an Iowa blizzard that’s expected to dump a foot of snow on some areas of the state just three days before Republicans caucus for their preferred presidential nominees.

Haley canceled her midday events and is replacing them with tele-town halls — or conference calls with prospective voters. DeSantis held one event outside Des Moines on Friday morning, but the allied super PAC running most of his Iowa operations “postponed” two stops originally scheduled for later in the day. And Trump’s campaign axed a Friday night event with surrogate Kari Lake over concerns about the treacherous weather, which has caused impassable roads, whiteout conditions and gusty winds.

“We’re in uncharted territory right now,” said David Kochel, a GOP strategist who was at an event this morning with DeSantis and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds that still managed to draw 100 people, despite a blizzard warning from the National Weather Service and pleas from the Iowa Department of Transportation to stay off the roads.

“Iowans are a hale and hearty bunch,” Kochel said.

DeSantis and Haley stand to lose the most from terrible weather that prevents them from getting in front of voters at a critical time. The two are competing for a strong second-place finish that could vault them into better contention in New Hampshire and South Carolina, with a new poll showing Haley surging ahead of DeSantis.

“I definitely know I’m not in South Carolina anymore,” Haley said during a tele-town hall with Fort Dodge, Iowa, voters, during which she delivered her stump speech and answered questions from voters. “I know that on Jan. 15 it’s going to be negative 19 [degrees]. 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.”

Many undecided voters treat elections like cramming for a test, making up their minds at the last possible minute. But Iowans aren’t typical voters — candidates begin to woo them months before any votes are cast. And voters already know plenty about them from the debates, town halls and national media scrutiny.

“We’ve had access to these candidates and campaigns for a year,” said Jimmy Centers, an Iowa-based GOP strategist and former communications director under Gov. Terry Branstad. “So it certainly impacts candidates’ travel and this last push, but it puts a really fine point and emphasis on why building a robust organization is so critical in a state like Iowa. Weather events like this mean that candidates and campaigns must turn to their organization and flex that muscle in these last few days.”

A Suffolk University poll released Thursday showed Haley running 7 percentage points ahead of DeSantis in Iowa among 500 likely caucusgoers — 54% of whom said Trump was their first pick. Haley was the top choice for 20% of voters in the survey, compared with the 13% who indicated that of DeSantis. The results emphasize the need for Haley to continue to campaign aggressively in this final stretch, which is traditionally jampacked with events.

Kochel said that he was more worried about the weather on caucus night — and couldn’t recall a caucus this century that had been similarly impacted by such extreme winter weather. Following Friday’s blizzard, temperatures are expected to dip below zero and stay there through Tuesday, creating dangerous and even life-threatening conditions that could prevent voters from leaving their homes. The quirky caucus system, which doesn’t allow for absentee voting, requires voters to show up to schools and community centers to organize themselves into groups based on their candidate preferences — so in-person participation is a must.

“Iowans are used to dealing with cold weather, obviously. We’re used to dealing with snow, obviously,” Kochel said. “But the difference between 10 degrees and minus 10 degree or minus 15 degrees is absolutely enormous, because you’re not just talking about being uncomfortable and cold. It’s dangerous to be out in weather that cold.”

Kochel said that he believes the cold weather will dampen turnout to levels well below what the campaigns are predicting.

The weather is expected to clear up later in the day, and the campaigns haven’t appeared to make any determination yet about events on Saturday, when Trump is expected to arrive here.

There’s one candidate who’s soldiering on now despite the weather.

Vivek Ramaswamy, who tweeted this week about his car getting stuck in a snowy ditch, has yet to cancel campaign events. Ramaswamy on Friday shared a video and photos from an event that had taken place in the morning. The video clip shows Ramaswamy driving on a barely passable road, despite the state DOT advising residents not to do so.

“Iowans are still showing up – in the middle of a blizzard,” he wrote.

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