DES MOINES, IA – One of the things that you know if you have ever worked for a Presidential campaign in Iowa is that you will get to know the people from the other campaigns. Iowa is a relatively small state with few population centers, and the voting choke points are well known and trafficked. You run into people from virtually all the other campaigns that are traversing the state trying to get out the vote, and you develop a relatively friendly rapport with all of them. The one exception being the Ron Paul people in 2008 and 2012, but even still, the folks on the other campaigns really knew they were there.
One of the bizarre things about what’s happening in Iowa right now is that no one has seen neither hide nor hair of the Trump campaign. Like, at all. I have talked with both the Cruz and Rubio camps, and they have run into campaign efforts from everyone who is even nominally contesting Iowa. They run into each other all the time, they run into Christie people, they run into Carson people, they run into Fiorina people, they run into Jeb people. They don’t, however, see any evidence at all of a Trump campaign even working in the state.
In fact, a couple of the people I talked to yesterday were unnerved by it. “It’s almost like they say in the movies: ‘It’s quiet… too quiet.'” said one Cruz Iowa worker I talked to yesterday. It may well be that Trump’s free media exposure and his celebrity will carry him to the win today but no one seems to know how he is going to do it. And if he does do it, no one will even know how to campaign in Iowa in the future.
Trump is the ultimate wild card in this campaign. It would not surprise anyone if he won, and it would not surprise people on the ground here if he finished third. If he does win, it will change the way campaigns were run in the future.