Updated Jan 8, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Polar vortex threatens to disrupt Iowa caucuses

Nikki Haley volunteer getting signs

A volunteer for Nikki Haley collects campaign signs outside the Horizon Family Restaurant on Jan. 8 in Sioux City after the campaign event was canceled due to inclement weather. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Near-blizzard conditions are colliding with GOP primary candidates' final push ahead of the 2024 Iowa caucuses, forcing campaigns to cancel events and change plans.

Why it matters: Forecasted frigid weather for next week could also dampen voter turnout on caucus day on Monday, local analysts say.

  • Iowa is under a winter storm warning as 6–12 inches of snow are expected across its central and southeastern regions through Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.
  • The run-up to the caucuses coincides with one of the most active periods of winter weather in recent memory, Axios extreme weather expert Andrew Freedman reports.
  • The snow is expected to be followed by a polar vortex that lingers through caucus day, with single-digit temperatures for the highs and below-zero overnight lows.

What's happening: The campaigns of former UN ambassador Nikki Haley and former President Trump have both already canceled Iowa events due to weather and travel issues.

  • Vivek Ramaswamy will drive to his campaign events this week rather than his typical private plane rides.
  • Blowing snow with winds gusting as high as 40 mph are expected Tuesday, reducing visibility.

Zoom in: More frigid temperatures next week could dampen caucus turnout, especially for Trump supporters who assume he's already ahead, local Democratic political consultant Jeff Link tells Axios.

  • Poor weather is most likely to negatively impact turnout among older Iowans, said Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State.
  • That could disproportionately affect Trump too, Link says, as the former president's supporters likely skew older than voters for Haley and Ron DeSantis.

Zoom out: Iowa's winter caucuses are no stranger to weather disruptions, Schmidt says.

  • "Weather is the No. 1 caucus turnout problem."

Axios' Sophia Cai contributed reporting.

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