Winter in Iowa: Candidates, supporters and snowdrifts

The Iowa caucuses has always been a source of media attention, but this year’s freezing weather has attempted to steal the spotlight. Truman State University students attending the Iowa caucus and related events braved the weekend’s weather hoping to give their fellow students back home a peek into life as a caucus-goer this weekend. Originally planning to arrive Jan. 13, students weren’t able to reach Iowa until Jan. 14 because of back-to-back blizzards making road travel nearly impossible. 

Upon reaching Des Moines, Iowa during the evening of Jan. 14, students attempted to attend a Nikki Haley rally hosted in a nearby lodge. The drive to the lodge on ice-patched roads and snow drifts was the least of their weather-related concerns when the students found themselves attempting to get their two vans up an ice-covered hill. The below-freezing temperatures were of no help as the students in the first of two Truman vans up the hill were forced to exit to push their vehicle free of a particularly snowy patch. After finally fighting their way uphill to the rally location, they were met at the top and informed that the event was nearly over and rally attendees weren’t being allowed into the lodge. 

Day two started early in the morning with temperatures at negative nine degrees and painfully bitter winds. While attending a rally for Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy at the Machine Shed Restaurant the students began interviewing other rally attendees about their experiences with the harsh weather.

The cold had affected not only the plan of the Truman students but of the rallies and attendees as well. One of the attendants, Marissa Lindemann, a journalism student representing the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, stated that her school had faced difficulty because of the weather.

“Yesterday my class went to a Nikki Haley rally, and they had such a tough time getting in and out of the event because it was so icy,” Lindemann said. “Our class got delayed by a day due to the weather as well.”

As the day went on, the Bulldogs traveled to Ankeny, Iowa to attend a Trump rally, hosted by Donald Trump Jr. One of these attendants was Josh McConkey, a candidate for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District, who flew from North Carolina to offer his support for Trump. McConkey shared how the weather could affect the turnout of events.

“This type of weather is very dangerous. The roads don’t get plowed. It’s super dangerous, and it could leave some people home,” McConkey said.  

While rally attendees like McConkey were concerned about the impacts of the weather, some like Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA, student Foster Harris explained how he thought intense weather conditions could reveal weaknesses in a candidate’s ground game. Harris specifically mentioned possible struggles for the Nikki Haley campaign’s ground game. 

“[Nikki Haley] has the most support out of voters 70 and up more than any other candidate. Those people may be less inclined to go out in the cold, right? When the windchill is -45, and because of that, that could hurt her,” Harris said. 

After mentioning their own experiences trying to get to the Nikki Haley rally the previous night, Harris labeled a lack of weather preparation as a fault in Haley’s ground game that likely cost her turnout for the caucus.