Feb 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Drake University in Des Moines, Jan. 30. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The star guest spotted at a Sheraton in Des Moines in recent days was Elizabeth Warren's golden retriever, Bailey. But in a conference room off the same hotel lobby, Trump campaign operatives have been quietly orchestrating a massive operation for tomorrow's Republican caucuses.

Why it matters: The Trump campaign is using Iowa as a testing ground for the rest of the campaign trail.

  • It's testing its field program, bandwidth of staff and volunteers on the ground, and the efficiency of its surrogates. Trump rallied in Iowa himself last week, and roughly 80 members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries and administration officials are coming tomorrow.
  • The campaign said it recruited 2,400 volunteers for caucus efforts alone, holding 93 training sessions and making 125,000 phone calls.
  • “The caucus is a test of turnout [of volunteers, and staff],” Stephanie Alexander, regional political director for the Trump campaign, tells Axios. “This is a really, really good way for us to see how far we can get and how far our reach is with the staff that we have on the ground and the volunteers that have already committed.”

Surrogates: Top surrogates per the Trump campaign: Lara Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Brad Parscale.

  • They’ll run through Trump’s greatest hits throughout different parts of Iowa, particularly the passage of the USMCA and signing phase one of the U.S.-China trade deal, playing straight to the Iowa farmers.

Between the lines: Iowa has a lot of unaffiliated voters, and the Trump campaign plans to focus heavily on voter registration, including converting independent and Democratic voters supportive of POTUS to register as Republicans.

  • It’s also the first opportunity since 2016 for Iowans to affirm their support for Trump.
  • It's also an important state for Republicans to take seriously, given GOP Senator Joni Ernst is up for re-election and the GOP is eyeing two House seats they lost in 2018.

Go deeper: Biden surrogates test electability argument ahead of Iowa clash with Sanders

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Raising Bernie as Bernie rises

Trump supporters demonstrate against Sanders, April 15, 2019, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders has surged to the front of the polls ahead of Monday's Iowa caucuses. And some of Trump's political advisers say they are doing their best to help him stay there.

Behind the scenes: "We're trying to promote the rise," said a Trump adviser. "The campaign has been pumping up the national messaging behind Bernie, pushing out fundraising emails. When you attack his policies, it gets the media to talk about him."

Trump's revenge tour has the House in its sights

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty Contributor

In the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections — buoyed by Republican control of both chambers — President Trump viewed campaigning for the House as a lower-tier priority and instead poured his energy into rallying for the Senate.

But after the GOP reckoning in 2018, and experiencing firsthand how damaging a Democratic-led House has been to him, Trump is now personally invested in helping Republicans regain the majority in November, several people familiar with his thinking tell Axios.

Trump rallies in Iowa: "If we don't win, your farms are going to hell"

In his final rally before the Iowa caucuses, President Trump greeted Iowans Thursday by saying: "If we don't win, your farms are going to hell, I can tell you right now."