Republicans hold meet-up mere weeks before caucuses

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Dozens of supporters of President Donald Trump packed into Butcher Block Steakhouse in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday night, hearing from members of the president’s re-election campaign.

Republican National Committee Co-Chair Tommy Hicks speaks to supporters of President Donald Trump at a MAGA Meetup in Cedar Rapids on Jan. 14, 2020. (Mary Green/KCRG)

“You’re here tonight to show them that they’re wrong, and they’re going to be wrong in November,” Trump Senior Advisor John Pence told them.

His supporters are looking forward not just to November, but to a contested Iowa Republican caucus in a few weeks.

“I’ve been a caucus leader for my precinct since about 1985, ‘86,” Grant Gardner of Walker said.

Gardner will be at his caucus location the night of Feb. 3 in Linn County, while fellow Trump supporter Tom Sandersfeld of Cedar Rapids will be at his too.

“I think he’s done a great job on the economy,” Sandersfeld said of Trump. “I like what he’s done that way. International affairs, I think he’s been pretty solid there too.”

For the first time since 1980, when Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy challenged incumbent Jimmy Carter, an incumbent will face opposition in the Iowa caucuses.

While Bill Weld and Joe Walsh will both challenge Trump, Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann doesn’t believe the president faces much of a test.

“For all purposes, Donald Trump’s running unopposed in Iowa,” Kaufmann said.

Kaufmann doesn’t anticipate turnout in 2020 will be anything close to 2016’s record-setting Republican caucus attendance, but he said Republicans still need to show up, especially as Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status faces criticism from across the US.

“We cannot take off an election cycle and not show the rest of the country that we can handle this honor,” he said.

The Trump campaign said it’s not worried about challenges from Democrats or from within the Republican Party.

“We’re focusing on the Trump campaign and on our own race,” John Pence said.

And his supporters aren’t concerned either.

“No,” Gardner said.

“No,” Sandersfeld echoed. “I think he’ll be fine.”

But Kaufmann said they can’t be complacent because being first might depend on it.

“Some people don’t know what we’ve got until we lose it, and we can never lose this,” Kaufmann said.