Iowa expectations: Trump downplays whether he’ll top 50% in Monday night’s GOP presidential caucuses

DES MOINES, IA – Donald Trump is confident he’ll do “very well” in Monday night’s Iowa caucuses, which lead off the 2024 Republican presidential nominating calendar.

But the former president isn’t ready to make a prediction on if he’ll top 50%.

As he left his hotel in Des Moines on Sunday, Trump was asked by Fox News’ James Levinson about whether he would receive more than 50 % of the vote in the caucuses.

“I don’t know, I think we are doing very well,” Trump answered. The former president is the commanding front-runner in the latest polls in Iowa as well as in national surveys in the GOP presidential nomination race as he makes his third straight White House run.


Trump grabbed 50% support, or higher, in a slew of polls over the past month in Iowa. And he stood at 48% support in the final Des Moines Register/Mediacom/NBC News poll of likely Republican caucusgoers was released Saturday night. His closest rivals – former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – stood at 20% and 16% in the new survey.

The closely watched and highly anticipated survey, conducted by longtime pollster Ann Selzer, has a well-earned tradition of accuracy in past GOP presidential caucuses, and is considered by many as the gold standard in Iowa polling.


DeSantis campaign manager James Uthmeier, in a Sunday appearance on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” argued that “expectations are high for Trump…he’s got to perform. If he gets less than half the vote, more people voting against him than for him. I think that’s, you know, setting up doom down the road.”

And Haley, in an interview on the same program, noted that people will be looking to see if Trump “is falling below 50%.”

Longtime Republican strategist David Kochel, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns and statewide contests in Iowa, told Fox News “there are two campaigns going on in Iowa right now.”

“One is Trump vs. his expectations and the other one is Haley vs. DeSantis to see who gets the right to take on Trump one-on-one,” noted Kochel, who remains neutral in the Republican presidential caucuses.

Trump made history last year as the first former or current president to be indicted for a crime, but his four indictments, including charges he tried to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss, have only fueled his support among Republican voters.


But Trump and his campaign have been attempting to downplay the high expectations he faces in Iowa.

“No one has ever won the Iowa caucus by more than 12%,” Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita told Fox News Digital on Saturday. “I think the public polls are a little rich.”

Trump, speaking with reporters on Sunday, took aim at media attention over Iowa expectations.

“There seems to be something about 50% now. It doesn’t matter,” Trump argued. “I think they’re doing it so that they can set a high expectation. So if we end up with 49%, which would be about 25 points bigger than anyone else ever got. They can say he had a failure, it was a failure. You know fake news.”

While he takes aim at expectations, Trump is also urging his supporters to show up at the caucuses.

“Tomorrow, Jan. 15, I need each and every one of you to get out. Everybody get out. Just get out and vote,” Trump urged his supporters at a rally Sunday in Indianola, Iowa.


At an Iowa rally earlier this month, Trump touted to supporters that “we’re leading by 30 to 40 points.”

However, he added that “the poll numbers are scary because we’re leading by so much.”

 “We’re not taking any chances,” Trump emphasized as he took aim at potential complacency among his supporters. “The biggest risk is, you say you know what? He’s winning by so much, darling. Let’s stay home and watch television. Let’s watch this great victory. And if enough people do that, it’s not going to be pretty. But we’re not going to let that happen.”

The Trump campaign in Iowa shifted into a higher gear weeks ago, and the former president picked up the pace of stops in the state. High profile surrogates have also parachuted into Iowa to campaign on the former president’s behalf. Additionally, the campaign trained nearly 2,000 caucus captains in precincts across the state. 

“Their sole job is to run each individual caucus that takes place and making sure that the list of the targeted voters supporting President Trump show up,” LaCivita highlighted.

“We’ve built an operation in over 1,800 caucus locations with straight up volunteers, neighborhood by neighborhood. They know the area and they know who’s caucusing in their area and they’ll be following up with them, making sure they vote,” he said. “Our focus and our premium has been on people.. and we think it’s going to bear fruit in a big way.”

The Trump campaign’s ground game operation in Iowa is leagues ahead of his 2016 effort, when he narrowly lost the caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. 

“Ted Cruz won in 2016 because his ground game was fantastic,” Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann, who remains neutral in the Republican nomination race, told Fox News.

Pointing to the 2024 Trump campaign, Kaufmann said “their ground game has increased immensely.”

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

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