Raising the stakes: Are Trump’s expectations too high in Iowa’s Jan. 15 caucuses?

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WATERLOO, IA – Former President Donald Trump, back in Iowa for the fourth time in less than a month, with a message of urgency for his supporters.

“We’ve got to be sure that we put this thing away,” Trump told his supporters on Tuesday night at a rally in this northeastern Iowa city. “You gotta show up. Even if you think we’re going to win by a lot. You gotta show up.”

With less than four weeks to go until the caucus, the Trump campaign’s shifted into a higher gear. The former president is picking up the pace when it comes to stumping in Iowa. And the campaign is training close to 2,000 caucus captains in precincts across the state. 

“Their sole job is to run each individual caucus that takes place and making sure that the list of the targeted voters supporting President Trump show up,” Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita told Fox News.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN LAUNCHES ‘EXTREMELY AGGRESSIVE OPERATION’ IN IOWA 

Donald Trump urges Iowa supporters to caucus

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Waterloo, Iowa, U.S. December 19, 2023. REUTERS/Scott Morgan (REUTERS/Scott Morgan)

The Trump campaign’s ground game operation in Iowa’s leagues ahead of his 2016 effort, when he narrowly lost the caucuses to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. 

“Ted Cruz won in 2016 because his ground game was fantastic,” Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann, who remains neutral in the Republican nomination race, told Fox News.

And pointing to the 2024 Trump campaign, Kaufmann emphasized “their ground game has increased immensely.”

Trump’s the commanding front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination as he makes his third straight White House run.

AS FRONT-RUNNER TRUMP RETURNS TO IOWA, RIVALS HALEY AND DESANTIS TURN UP THE VOLUME – ON EACH OTHER

And the latest polls in Iowa, whose Jan. 15 caucuses lead off the GOP presidential nominating calendar, suggest that Trump’s over 50% support and holds a massive double-digit lead over the dwindling field of Republican rivals.

Trump and his campaign team are aiming for an overwhelming victory in Iowa, as part of their plan to wrap up the nomination race as quickly as possible and pivot to a general election rematch with President Biden next November.

Donald Trump rally in Iowa

Former President Donald Trump, the commanding front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, speaks to supporters at a rally in Waterloo, Iowa on Dec. 19, 2023.  (Fox News – Paul Steinhauser)

Their major concern – complacency.

“The poll numbers are scary because we’re leading by so much,” Trump told the crowd, as he urged them to take part in the caucuses next month.

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird told Fox News that “President Trump’s poll numbers are unprecedented for a Republican running in the Iowa caucuses. So that is great news. The key thing to remember is that the only thing that matters is the one that happens on caucus.”

Bird, who has endorsed the former president and is a top Trump surrogate in Iowa, said “we are all focused on [the caucus]. His grassroots organization is focused on that. I’m a caucus captain myself in Guthrie County. I will be there at the caucus helping rally votes for President Trump on caucus night. We have to stay focused and our people have to show up. The support is strong, it’s there, but we have to show up.”

TRUMP HOLDS A MASSIVE LEAD IN THE POLLS WITH FIVE WEEKS TO GO UNTIL THE IOWA CAUCUSES 

Another issue for the Trump campaign is making sure they match or beat expectations, which are inflated due to his commanding lead in the polls in Iowa, the other early voting states, and in national surveys.

Trump, aware of the expectations he faces, took aim at a familiar target, the media.

“If we win in a massive number, but if it’s a little bit less than that, they’ll say ‘oh, he didn’t beat expectations,’ Trump told his supporters.

Donald Trump headlines a 'Hannity' town hall in Davenport, Iowa on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a Commit to Caucus rally, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Ankeny, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney) (AP Photo/Matthew Putney)

Longtime Republican strategist David Kochel told Fox News that Trump’s “driving his own expectations up…It’s all expectations and Trump’s are sky-high.”

“If he’s under 50%, it’s a problem for him given his poll average now is well over 50,” argued Kochel, a veteran of numerous GOP presidential campaigns nationally and in Iowa.

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Seasoned Iowa-based Republican strategist Jimmy Centers said if Trump “wins by more than 20 points and he’s over 50%, my goodness, this thing is over before it even begun.”

“But if it’s under 15 points, then I think we have a race if the field consolidates,” added Centers, a veteran of multiple presidential campaigns, gubernatorial and congressional campaigns, and who served as communications director for then-Gov. Terry Brandstad and current Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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