Trump faces key test with Iowa primary

Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum, left, and Donald Trump, center, laugh as they listen to Mike Huckabee during a campaign event on the campus of Drake University Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


For Donald Trump, Iowa’s caucuses will be the first test of whether the celebrity businessman and political newcomer will be able to transform the massive crowds he has drawn throughout the election into votes as the U.S. primary season gets underway Monday.

 

Trump’s outsider candidacy has upended the Republican establishment, largely dominating the polls in the race to nominate the party’s presidential candidate ahead of November elections. Meanwhile, establishment-supported candidates like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have failed to take-off.

Trump spoke of the importance of Iowa for his campaign and, in a rare moment of introspection at a rally in Norwalk, acknowledged the potential “psychological” consequences of a loss here.

“They say bad psychological things happen if you lose,” he said. “I don’t know what the impact is.”

The outcome likely rests on turnout and whether Trump’s campaign is able to lure the non-traditional caucus-goers who may have never participated in the caucus process to the polls.

Some are skeptical Trump has the organizational structure to pull off a commanding win.

Doug Watts, a Republican strategist who recently parted ways with Trump rival Ben Carson’s campaign, a win for Trump is “pretty critical.”

If he doesn’t win, Watts said, “people will start saying, ‘Hmm, well, maybe he’s not so inevitable. Maybe Marco Rubio can climb into a solid second in New Hampshire.’

Chuck Laudner the architect of Trump’s Iowa campaign expressed confidence the voters would turn out for his candidate.

“There’s nothing about this campaign that’s like all the rest or any of those in the past,” he said. “We do things different. And we reach out to people that wouldn’t normally be caught dead at caucus events. And so we feel really good about our chances, we feel really good about our reach and I think you’re going to have a surprise on a caucus night.”

Trump, who appears to have emerged from a dead-heat with rival Ted Cruz to re-capture his position atop state polls, has done little to minimize expectations, predicting again and again that he’ll do better than the polls suggest.

And as he traveled across the state in the final weekend before voting, Trump had a quiet air of satisfaction, with seemingly little worry about the outcome.

“We began this journey — it’s a journey, we did it together — and it’s been an amazing experience,” he told a crowd gathered in the auditorium of a middle school in Clinton Saturday. “Nobody thought it was going to turn out this way.”

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