AJC In Iowa: Haley’s unexpected boost in Iowa? Independents and Democrats

Campaign notebook: U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene kicks off Trump event in Fort Dodge

ADEL, Iowa — Former President Donald Trump is dominating the pregame dynamics of the Iowa caucus this year, with a huge lead in polls, large crowds of intense supporters and the most dominant grassroots organization of any candidate.

But former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has something Trump lacks this time around — a broad group of supporters, including independents and Democrats planning to register as Republicans on caucus day, which state law allows, to cast their votes for her.

Bill and Connie Gorius from Ankeny, said they’ve canceled out each other’s votes for the past 45 years — she’s a Democrat and he’s a Republican. But this year, they’re both supporting Haley.

“We really thought about skipping this whole election,” Bill Gorius said. After looking at the entire field, they’ll both be caucus captains for Haley. “We just wanted to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning and feel proud of who was sent to the White House,” he said.

Other Democrats and independents at a Haley caucus-eve event Sunday night in Adel said they’re considering the same. A combination of Haley’s brand of more traditional GOP politics, a noncompetitive Democratic presidential field and a strong desire to stop Trump from a second term is sending the unexpected coalition her way in Iowa.

Although Haley has not criticized Trump extensively in her campaign, she told the group in Adel that “chaos follows him, you know that.”

“You can’t be a country in disarray and have a world on fire and go through four more years of chaos,” she said.

The final Des Moines Register/NBC News poll before the caucus showed Haley consolidating the anti-Trump vote. Trump led the poll of likely caucusgoers with 48% of the vote, compared with 20% for Haley.

But of those who said they’ll caucus for her, 43% said they would vote for President Joe Biden over Trump in November if Trump is the Republican nominee. Just 23% of Haley voters said they’d vote for Trump.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz has been in Iowa observing the field and was in the audience for Haley’s event in Adel. He said her broader appeal is evident. “She’s got by far the widest variety of voters of any of the candidates, rock-ribbed conservatives, old-fashioned Reaganites and independent women.”

Add in Democrats, and Luntz said that sets Haley up for a potential second-place finish in Iowa and a win in New Hampshire ahead of the crucial South Carolina primary. “Things in motion tend to stay in motion,” Luntz said. “And she’s going up.”

A parade of Trump surrogates — including Georgia Reps. Greene, Collins and Clyde — rally Trump supporters on caucus day

FORT DODGE, Iowa — Over a dozen Trump surrogates, including Arizona’s Kari Lake and Florida’s Matt Gaetz rallied a crowd inside a packed restaurant just hours before caucus meetings were scheduled to attend.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from northwest Georgia, kicked off the event by throwing red “Make America Great Again” hats to the crowd. She handed the final hat to a boy wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt several sizes too big.

Once on the stage, Greene spoke about why she believes Trump should return to the White House. She said he would help improve international relations and return places such as Israel and Ukraine to peace.

Greene said Trump’s chief rival, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, is not conservative enough and pointed out she has cultivated support from Democrats and independents.

“Nikki Haley is the neocon; that’s the part of the Republican Party we’ve had enough of,” Greene said. “And we don’t need a Republican candidate for president that’s being supported by Democrats.”

One by one, the other lawmakers came out and delivered their own brief remarks. U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, who represents northeast Georgia, said the military and the economy were stronger during the four years Trump was president.

U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, a Jackson Republican who owns a trucking business, said a Trump presidency could help small businesses such as his prosper again. That is why Trump and not his opponents deserve Iowans’ support, Collins said.

“If you’re going to go back to an ‘America First’ agenda — you see it works,” Collins said. “Why not put the guy that made it work back in there to begin with?”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Washington correspondent Tia Mitchell, columnist Patricia Murphy and photographer Hyosub Shin are braving the cold in Iowa to cover the Republican caucuses. Follow their coverage on AJC.com/politics, and follow them on X: Mitchell at @ajconwashington, Murphy at @MurphyAJC and Shin at @ilovefoto