BURLINGTON, Iowa – Here in Iowa on Wednesday night, the Donald Trump machine was plugging away. As supporters filled the Burlington Memorial Auditorium, volunteers in Make America Great Again hats and shirts canvassed the crowd – handing out voter information cards and encouraging them to caucus for the front-runner.
On stage, Tana Goertz, Trump’s Iowa Co-Chair, sounded more like she was leading a pep rally than opening for a stump speech. Goertz asked the crowd of 2,500 to turn to their neighbors and tell them “one thing you like about Donald Trump.” The crowd did as they were asked and Goertz exclaimed, “Congratulations! You just caucused for Donald Trump.”
It was the same speech NBC News saw Goertz give in Waterloo, Iowa, a few weeks ago and yet another sign, the campaign is taking their ground game seriously in this caucus state.
The campaign now says they have caucus leaders for all 99 counties, but that they are really focusing on Iowa’s 1,700 precincts.The effort is being led by Republican strategist Chuck “The Truck” Laudner, who famously drove former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum across Iowa during the 2012 cycle. Santorum’s win here in 2012 was attributed to the fact that he got to all 99 counties.
Don’t expect Trump to do that. He comes in for big events and leaves immediately thereafter. Then again, with the exposure he gets, he may not need to. Case in (potential) point: Trump has now been atop all the polls for 100 days.
Wednesday night’s crowd, though boisterous, was a bit different from what we’ve seen in the past here. The age range skewed older and more serious – though not all were from Iowa.
Sharon Dew and her husband John, of Illinois, told NBC News that as of now, Trump has their vote.
“I had never been to a political rally before, it’s like a rock concert,” Sharon Dew said while her husband pointed to Trump’s record as a businessman as the main reason why he had their vote.
“I believe he will put smart people around him,” he said.
But Illinois doesn’t primary until March 15.
Iowan millennials Jenny and Ryan Turner also enjoyed the excitement of Trump’s speech – even taking selfies with businessman before he left.
“He wants America to be great. He’s like ‘heck yeah,’ better yet he’s like ‘hell yeah.’ He’s bringing macho back to America,” Jenny told NBC News.
Still the couple is not sure Trump is the right man for the job.
“I hear all the right buzzwords, but I don’t hear anything specific,” Ryan Turner added. Although Turner agreed with Trump that China is “killing us on trade” he wondered if there was substance behind the bravado.
“How are we going to beat them? I appreciate his charisma, but I want details,” he said.