The winner of the Iowa caucuses is ... President Trump

That’s right – the real winner coming out of the Iowa caucuses is President Trump. As Ed wrote earlier, the Trump campaign has a lot to crow about today.

While everyone was focused on the Democrats and the utter disaster they delivered in Iowa, two truths emerged. First, Republicans pounced, as the press likes to say, on the fact that Democrats can’t even count raised hands at a caucus and produce the totals in a timely manner. They tweaked their procedures and all that backfired on them. Even more incredible is the fact that voter turnout wasn’t increased but just remained about what the turnout was in 2016. What happened to all that enthusiasm we’ve been hearing about on the Democrat side to oust Trump from office?

Second, President Trump won 97.16% of the GOP caucus votes. His two primary challengers, Bill Weld and Joe Walsh are running to put a dent into Trump’s re-election chances. They failed miserably. The Republican caucus saw a turnout that reached record levels. The last time there was a noncompetitive GOP caucus, one with an incumbent president, was in 2004. President George W. Bush was in the incumbent and the turnout was about 8,000 Republicans. The total Monday night was 32,004. That number indicates, to me, a lot of enthusiasm. The challengers garnered 1.27% (Weld) and 1.08% (Walsh). There were a few write-ins which totaled 0.47%.

The Trump campaign pulled out all the stops. They want Iowa – a usually reliable red state – to vote for Trump as it did in 2016. Two of Trump’s sons, politicians, and cabinet members stumped for Trump. No one wants to take anything for granted. Both Weld and Walsh lacked caucus-goers who were willing to speak for them before the voting took place.

At caucuses, representatives of each candidate are supposed to have a little time to tell the audience why they should vote for that candidate. In Ames, Trump Jr. was the star of the show, talking for more than 20 minutes about his father’s accomplishments and also dwelling on the investigations to which Democrats have subjected Trump and his family.

Jeff Ortiz, the co-chair of the Story County GOP, went from table to table, asking people if anyone would like to make remarks on behalf of Walsh or Weld. There were no takers.

In the end, out of 449 votes, Trump received 415, Walsh 20, and Weld 9. There was one write-in each for a disparate group: Vice President Mike Pence, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, and Dispatch writer David French. One person abstained.

In the end, Ortiz was delighted with a turnout more than four times what he originally expected. Yes, that was a display of clout by Trump, but it was also an organizational shot in the arm for the local party.

“It’s critical that we get these people to turn out, to sign up for our central committees, to stay involved right up until the end,” Ortiz said. “Because there are no guarantees come November.”

The Walsh campaign claims his supporters were not allowed to speak at the caucuses.

Walsh shared a message from his campaign manager, who claimed she was receiving reports that “at several precincts across Iowa, including precincts in Urbandale, voters wishing to speak on behalf of Joe Walsh are being turned away/told they may not speak.” Those developments, Walsh wrote, were “Very concerning.”

The communications director for the Iowa Republican Party says, more or less, that’s hogwash. Fake news. Maybe Joe’s just a sore loser.

Aaron Britt, the communications director for the Republican Party of Iowa, contradicted the Walsh campaign in a statement, saying that the state party “never received reports on anything like that from anywhere.”

“Walsh clearly received votes, and the campaign never seemed to be able to identify a specific precinct where there was an issue,” Britt said. “Seems like intentional misinformation not backed up by any evidence.”

Bill Weld is a former two-term Governor of Massachusetts. He ran as the vice-presidential nominee on the Libertarian ticket in 2016. His campaign focus is on limited government and fiscal responsibility. He often refers to Trump’s behavior as that of a king.

“I’m running to offer the opportunity to elect a president who actually believes in the principles of limited government, free and fair markets, and economic opportunity for all. Principles that, until recently, were the trademarks of a great political party,” Weld wrote. “I don’t believe trillion-dollar deficits are okay. I believe in markets, not trade wars….We believe in the Rule of Law, and that it applies to everyone, including the President. We believe the Constitution means what it says, rather than scoffing at its limits on the power of presidents and the federal government. And we believe the purpose of foreign policy and our military is to make us safer.”

Joe Walsh, in contrast, focuses on personal attacks on President Trump. His crowds don’t always appreciate Walsh’s vitriol.

“If you want four more years of a president who wakes up every morning and makes every day about himself,” Walsh said in Ankeny, Iowa today, “then vote for Donald Trump.” The crowd booed him out of the room.

Weld and Walsh are failing to raise much money for their campaigns. Fourth-quarter numbers were brutal – $411,000 for Weld, $245,000 for Walsh, $45.98 million for Trump. “Weld had just $37,000 in the bank at the end of 2019, Walsh just under $10,000, compared to Trump’s war chest of $195 million.”

Add to all this the fact that Trump’s never been more popular with Republicans and Independent voters. As a matter of fact, his numbers have risen in the midst of the impeachment circus. Resistance is futile by his primary opponents. Weld may do a little bit better in New Hampshire, given he is from neighboring Massachusetts, but that remains to be seen. Some states have canceled their GOP primary elections. If the challengers haven’t captured the imagination of anyone other than some bitter Never Trumpers by now, there’s little hope that Weld and Walsh will be around much longer.