DES MOINES — President Trump handily warded off two GOP challengers in Monday’s Republican caucuses after Iowa Republicans turned out to pledge their support for the impeached president.
The Iowa Republican Party announced at 9:38 p.m. Monday that the party broke caucus turnout record set in similar caucus years when there was an incumbent president. With 94 percent reporting at 10:46 p.m., Trump had won all of the party’s 37 delegates with 99 percent of caucusgoers’ support. The other two candidates — former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh — did not have enough supporters to be viable at any precinct.
Des Moines resident Gary Propstein, 61, arrived at Perkins Elementary School’s library 45 minutes early and waited for the Republican caucus to start. He wore a “Keep America Great” hat and proudly voiced his support for Trump.
“The Democrats just don’t want to accept that he won the election, even though there was nothing wrong,” Propstein said of the impeachment. Trump’s impeachment trial regarding his alledged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress will come to a vote on Wednesday. “Trump’s an outsider and [he’s] just proving there’s corruption.”
He said his support for Trump is based on more than party politics. Propstein said he supports Trump because he’s not a traditional politician.
“Trump’s real,” he said. “He doesn’t sugar coat things and does what he says he’s going to do. He protects our international interests. The world is sitting up and taking notice that they can’t walk all over the United States anymore.”
Trump came in second place behind U.S. Senator from Texas Ted Cruz in the 2016 Iowa caucuses, with 45,416 Iowans declaring their support for Trump across the state — around 24.3 percent of Iowa Republican caucusgoers.
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In the 2016 general election, Trump won 51.1 percent of Iowa’s votes, totaling to 147,314 more votes than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and winning 93 out of Iowa’s 99 counties.
Since Trump launched his reelection campaign in June 2019, he has had two campaign stops in Iowa. Vice President Mike Pence has also swung through the state.
Doug Coats, 56, said his support for Trump has only grown over the last four years, including throughout the impeachment process.
“I think [the impeachment] is going to help him in the 2020 general [election, because] he fights back and there’s no beating around the bush,” he said. “You know where he stands.”
Coats said he wasn’t concerned about anyone in the Democratic Party going up against Trump. However, he was still concerned about what might happen within his own party if he didn’t show his support for the president.
“There’s two other candidates,” Coats said. “I didn’t want to take [anything] for granted. I probably wouldn’t have shown up if there hadn’t been multiple candidates.”
At North Liberty’s Republican caucus location, 10 people chatted and socialized in the community recreation center basement. Many made comments about the “circus” upstairs, referring to the Democratic caucus.
Charles Tomes, caucus chair for North Liberty Precincts 1 and 5, has worked for the county Republican Party since 2016.
“I prefer the caucus system compared to that of other states,” Tomes said. “This is where the process begins. The energy grows when we reach the county convention and beyond.”
Tomes began the night by leading the 19 caucusgoers in the Pledge of Allegiance, turning toward an American flag printed out on computer paper. Several people were not aware there are two opponents to Trump for the Republican nomination.
Five minutes passed before the votes were counted — a unanimous North Liberty vote for Trump.
At a Republican caucus location at University of Iowa’s Schaeffer Hall, Graeme Cabrera entered dressed in a suit, Trump wig, and a “Make America Great Again” hat. The California resident said he journeyed to the political tundra of Iowa to observe the caucuses because being the first state to vote is a beautiful thing.
Growing up in California, all of Cabrera’s friends were liberal — himself included. He even voted for independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic nominee in the 2016 election. When that didn’t pan out, Cabrera said he couldn’t vote for Clinton.
“I said to them, ‘You guys, I’m sorry. You guys have lost me, and the Democratic Party has lost me. I am not going to support election fraud in the primary or the general,’ ” he said.
Several students at Schaeffer Hall’s Republican preference poll — all freshmen — questioned which county they were in and what the last digit of the zip code is.
UI freshman Mason Zaker was one of the first to show up at the precinct. He was one of the 15 people to turn out at the Schaeffer Hall precinct, where 14 voted for Trump and one voted for Walsh.
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Zaker has been a Trump fan since he was in high school and has been keeping up with both sides of the impeachment process.
With Johnson County a strong blue marker on Iowa’s map, Zaker said that there are many Democrats who will mistreat those who identify as Republicans on campus.
“You don’t see a lot of the Republicans around here pushing it in the Democrats’ faces,” he said. “You can really notice that when you see the two groups here.”
Hannah Rovner and Maddie Lotenschtein contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: The Daily Iowan initially stated that Republican turnout this year broke a 2012 record. The DI was referring to years when there was an incumbent president.