Axios Des Moines

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January 12, 2024

Hi, Friday. Oh, and hi, snow (again).

❄️ Weather: Blowing snow with a high of 18°.

🎂 Happy early birthday to our Axios Des Moines members Laura Nelson and Dylan Lampe!

🇮🇹 Situational awareness: Noah's Ark's Ristorante will stay open following resolution of a legal battle among its owners, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reports.

Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 896 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Your 2-minute guide to the Iowa caucus

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The 2024 GOP presidential primary is in full swing in Iowa, as candidates squeeze in final campaign stops ahead of the state's caucuses on Jan. 15.

Why it matters: While former President Trump has dominated polling, many will be watching how his main rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, perform.

When and where the caucuses take place?

Iowa Republican caucus-goers will gather in locations like schools and churches to cast ballots in what will be the first test of the 2024 Republican presidential field.

  • Starting around 7pm Monday, caucus-goers will show up at their local precincts. They'll listen to speeches, mingle and cast private ballots, similar to a straw poll.
  • Iowans can find their GOP precincts and Democratic precincts here. (Democrats will just be meeting to discuss party business.)

How to participate in the caucuses

  • You must be registered to vote in Iowa.
  • You must be at least 18 years old on Election Day, Nov. 5.
  • Your party affiliation on your registration must match the caucus you plan to participate in.

How the Iowa caucuses started

Iowa's first-in-the-nation status began as a fluke.

Flashback: In the 1960s, amid the Vietnam War and anti-establishment protests, some in Iowa felt that everyday people were not being heard by political leaders, according to Iowa PBS.

  • As a result, Iowa Democrats revamped their caucus system to create a more inclusive process.
  • Presidential nominations would start at the precinct level and end at the state level, rather than the existing top-down system, to prioritize opinions at the grassroots level.

Yes, but: To make the new system work, the party needed to print new materials for thousands of precincts. And with an archaic mimeograph machine, that was going to take some time.

  • As a result, they set the caucuses earlier than all the other states in 1972.

Read more

2. Reynolds' semi-private X account suspended

Screenshot: The now-deleted X account, @Kimberl26890376

Gov. Kim Reynolds had a semi-unknown secondary X account that shared her unfiltered feelings about GOP caucus candidates in recent months, The New York Times reported yesterday.

  • The account was suspended soon after the article's publication and later appeared to be deleted altogether.

Why it matters: Some content shared via the account was arguably antagonistic and comes as some political observers warn that Reynolds' endorsement of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis instead of former President Trump could influence the future of Iowa's first-in-the nation GOP caucuses.

Details: The @Kimberl26890376 account on X — previously known as Twitter — was created in 2021. It's in addition to the account created in 2009 that's verified and primarily used by the governor, the Times reported.

  • Fewer than 260 people followed the unverified account, which included "influential Iowa political operatives," per the Times.

Zoom in: Reynolds' unverified account allegedly "liked" pro-DeSantis posts and others against former President Trump and Nikki Haley.

  • One post the governor shared from a DeSantis supporter: "Trump has no loyalty but demands it from everyone else. That's FEALTY. Which makes sense because these people want a king."

Catch up fast: Iowa governors have generally remained neutral and don't endorse candidates before the caucuses.

  • Early last year Reynolds said her role was to get candidates to come to Iowa and that staying out of the fight was key to doing that.

Yes, but: She later endorsed DeSantis in November.

Of note: X's rules prohibit a range of behaviors, including impersonating or deceiving others.

  • The governor's office did not respond to Axios' requests for comment.

3. Pic du jour: Caucus concoctions

"Mom-Aswamy's Spaghetti," a smashed vegetarian meatball patty with fried spaghetti, marinara croquette and mozzarella ($15.99). Photo: Courtesy of Zombie Burger

Zombie Burger unveils its caucus-themed menu today, starting with "Mom-Aswamy's Spaghetti" — a sandwich made with spaghetti and meatballs that's a nod to Vivek Ramaswamy, the GOP candidate who used Eminem's music on the campaign trail before getting hit with a cease-and-desist letter.

Driving the news: The sandwich kicks off a weekend of $15.99 caucus creations by the quirky downtown restaurant's downtown location.

  • Tomorrow: "Meatball Ron," a meatball patty with mozzarella, fried banana, marinara and a "hidden" garlic bread lift.
  • Sunday: "American History 101," a double pimento cheese patty with pulled pork, bacon, fried okra and Carolina Gold sauce.
  • Caucus Monday: "Day One Dic-Tator" — a Flamin' Hot Cheetos orange kielbasa with Russian dressing.

If you go: Zombie Burger is open seven days a week. But the caucus sandwiches are available 11am-10pm Fri.-Sat.; 11am-9pm Sun.-Mon., 300 East Grand Ave.

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4. Your weekend plans

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Friday

🍸 Hy-Vee's Wall to Wall Wine and Spirits is holding its first tasting of the year. 4-7pm.

Saturday

😂 Joe Gatto of "Impractical Jokers" hosts a night of comedy at Hoyt Sherman. Tickets start around $37. 7pm.

⛸ It's Taylor Swift on ice! Skate to the music of the Eras Tour at the MidAmerican Energy RecPlex and make friendship bracelets. Registration: $15. 6:30-8:30pm.

Sunday

🌸 Escape the cold and listen to blues at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. 1pm and 3pm. Adults: $12.

Share the lineup with a friend

🍻 1 cheesy gig to go: Pizza/beer chief

Photo: Courtesy of Casey's

Casey's has launched a search for a "chief pizza & beer officer."

Details: It's a contract gig to help with promotions between February and May.

  • Candidates must be at least 25 years old.
  • Pay is negotiable and the job doesn't qualify for most of Casey's employee benefits.

Yes, but: Vittles are free and travel costs will be covered — within reason.

🧟‍♂️ 1 weekend read: "Swamp Monsters" author Matt Dixon meets readers at Beaverdale Books, Sunday at 2:30pm.

  • His new book details how former President Trump made a star of Ron DeSantis and then set out to destroy him.

This newsletter was edited by Everett Cook and copy edited by Lucia Maher.