CLEVELAND — Donald Trump ripped up the rules, defied the punditry and grabbed the Republican nomination. Now, he and his supporters leave Cleveland to face a daunting electoral map.
“If we don’t change the map, from Pennsylvania to Iowa, we’re not going to win this election,” former Pennsylvania senator and 2012 Iowa caucuses winner Rick Santorum told Iowa delegates this week.
Without the Corn Belt and the Rust Belt, where the tumultuous Republican National Convention was held this week, Trump could get belted in November. Iowa is among a handful of swing states he’ll likely need to sway to have any chance. Iowa has picked a Republican nominee just twice since 1980.
You could say it’s a jungle out there. But no worries, according to Trump’s Iowa campaign director Eric Branstad.
“The lion is about to be unleashed,” Branstad said.
A new men’s fragrance? A sports car? A potent pharmaceutical? Nope.
Branstad, whose father apparently won some elections in Iowa, is talking about Trump’s Iowa campaign organization. And that “lion,” he contends, will roar at the persistent notion that Trump faces a large organizational disadvantage against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“We’re going to put an organization together that’s going to win Iowa. We’re going to put the resources, the manpower, everything into this,” Branstad said.
“We are going to put together a team like you’ve never seen before. The best and the brightest in Iowa,” Branstad said. “And we’ll put together a winning plan, and we’re going to make sure to implement that plan. And it’s going to work come Nov. 8.”
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Branstad has some previous campaign experience in Iowa, but he says he’s never worked for a candidate generating the sort of enthusiasm he’s seeing now.
“This is what’s so cool for me. I have been a part of many campaigns,” Branstad said. “And the campaigns I’ve been a part of, you’d call to recruit volunteers. This is the first campaign where they call us. They call me and reach out on Facebook and Twitter and online. Literally thousands of volunteers are coming to us asking, ‘what can I do?’”
“I get calls me every day, all day,” he said.
But the lion has some work to do. Clinton built an intricate, robust organization ahead of her narrow win in the February presidential caucuses. Now it’s focused on November. Trump finished second in the Republican caucuses, but did not match Clinton’s ground game. Republicans have expressed worries that Trump’s field operation has yet to fully materialize.
Branstad could always ask his dad, the nation’s longest-serving governor, for some advice on winning in Iowa.
“It’s not rocket science,” Gov. Terry Branstad said. “(Trump) needs to come to Iowa. He needs to connect with the people, which I think he is doing effectively. He needs to be very focused and disciplined at getting the message out that America is at a critical crossroads.
“It’s very close. This state is going to be one of those battlegrounds,” the governor said.
The polls are indeed tight. But we have yet to test approval ratings for unleashed lions.
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