Reynolds says Iowans expect Trump to stay on caucus trail despite poll lead

By: - August 21, 2023 2:28 pm

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Steer N' Stein bar at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 12, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

While President Donald Trump holds a significant lead among likely Iowa caucusgoers, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says Iowans are expecting Trump to stay on the campaign trail and interact with voters to keep their support.

The Des Moines Register/NBC News/Mediacom Iowa Poll published Monday found 42% of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers say they plan to support Trump for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

He holds a 23 percentage point lead over his nearest opponent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was 19% of poll respondents top choice for the nomination. No other candidates hit double digits, with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott coming in at third with 9%, followed by former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence tied at 6%.


Trump leads despite missing out on some of the traditional Iowa campaign trail stops that draw the entire field of GOP candidates like the Family Leadership Summit and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride. The former president made an appearance during the Iowa State Fair, but chose to hold an event at the Steer N’ Stein building with Florida endorsers instead of speak at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox or with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for a “fair-side chat.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, right, speaks to Fox News Sunday host Shannon Bream Aug. 20, 2023 at Jalapeño Pete’s at the Iowa State Fair. (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Reynolds was asked by host Shannon Bream if Iowans were giving Trump a “pass” from typical Iowa campaign trail expectations.

“They expect him to be here and want to interact with all the candidates,” Reynolds said. “Iowans take it very seriously, they’re very knowledgeable, and they want to interact with the candidates. So he was on the fairgrounds, he just chose not to do the fair-side chats, but I think it was a great opportunity for Iowans to continue to hear from our candidates.”

Trump’s decision to skip Reynolds’ event at the fair — a stop most GOP candidates made — came after the former president criticized the Iowa governor on Truth Social for not endorsing a candidate. Trump claimed his endorsement and events helped her win her 2022 reelection. In the Sunday interview, Reynolds said she plans to continue to remain neutral in the 2024 Republican nomination process — for now.

“I’m remaining neutral, but I don’t just want to rule it out down the road,” she said. “I think it’s really important right now, as I’ve said, to encourage candidates to come to Iowa.”

Reynolds said her goal for the time being is to continue to encourage all candidates to come to the first-in-the-nation state and talk with Iowans.

“Because ultimately what they tell me is we need to put a Republican in the White House in 2024, and they want the candidate they think can win,” Reynolds said.

Iowa governors typically remain neutral in the caucuses to avoid the appearance of favoritism in the party-run process. However, Gov. Terry Branstad endorsed Bob Dole in the 1996 caucuses. In 2016, he said before the caucuses he hoped Ted Cruz would lose, but he waited until May of that year to endorse Trump.

While Trump remains ahead, DeSantis nearly ties the former president  in the Iowa Poll among caucusgoers who say they are at least considering him. The poll found 63% of likely caucusgoers say Trump is their first or second choice in the caucuses or are actively considering him, compared to 61% who answered the same for DeSantis. Additionally, a majority — 52% — of poll respondents who have a top choice for the nomination said they could still be persuaded to support another candidate.

A majority of likely Republican caucusgoers, 65%, said it is most important to find a candidate who comes closest to their own views on issues; 29% said it’s most important to pick a candidate who has the best chance of defeating President Joe Biden in the 2024 general election.

The Iowa Poll was conducted Aug. 13-17 with a sample of 406 voters likely to attend the Iowa Republican caucuses, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

This story has been updated to correct an editing error that misrepresented Gov. Terry Branstad’s caucus endorsement history.


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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.