After the hype of Donald Trump events being compared to rowdy sports events that draw crowds of thousands, Monday’s rally in Waterloo, Iowa, felt more like a mandatory school assembly with lackluster attendance. It was a Monday morning event, but it was caucus day – the day every campaign has been ramping up to with countless rallies and millions spent. No candidate can afford to lose steam now.
The location, Ramada Waterloo Hotel and Convention Center, was only about half full at best. Trump prefaced the speech saying he would have to make this appearance a quick one in order to arrive at his next rally in Cedar Rapids on time. Understandable that the campaign wouldn’t want to spend extra time at a half empty rally, but not the best note to pump up a crowd that trekked out to the event early on a foggy Monday morning. The crowd stood the entire time during Trump’s speech, but it felt more out of obligation that out of excitement. Only those in the very front laughed at his jokes. No cheers were deafening or overwhelming. I was expecting a Green Bay Packers crowd, but instead got a Rams game.
The vibe among the press bordered on tense because of Trump staff’s restrictions about where the press could and couldn’t go. After being checked by Secret Service, journalists were corralled into a space surrounded by a fence covered in American flags. Reporters were discouraged from going out into the crowd for interviewing and taking photos, not that there was much to see. It felt ironic to be a journalist attempting to cover an event while being contained in space surrounded by American flags, which I take to represent, among other things, freedom of the press.
A large part of Trump’s campaign has been based on saying they put on the best events and have the best supporters, but Monday morning, Trump fans didn’t put their most enthusiastic foot forward. After seeing Trump’s second place finish in the Iowa caucuses, it’s possible this rally may be indicative of a slowing momentum in the Trump fan base or a case of the Mondays.