Need To Turn Buzz Into Votes? Trump And Carson Bank On Ground Games The political world long doubted that unorthodox candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson were building traditional campaign infrastructure. But on the ground in Iowa, it sure looks that way.
NPR logo

Need To Turn Buzz Into Votes? Trump And Carson Bank On Ground Games

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/454192900/454192901" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Need To Turn Buzz Into Votes? Trump And Carson Bank On Ground Games

Need To Turn Buzz Into Votes? Trump And Carson Bank On Ground Games

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/454192900/454192901" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now let's talk about the presidential campaign, which until recently was a bargain for Donald Trump. Campaign disclosures show him raising and spending millions of dollars, though less than a few other candidates. The real estate developer has received all the media coverage he could want for free. Now, however, the Iowa caucuses are three months away. And they are all about organizing. Any contender needs to identify supporters and gather them to show up in person on February 1. NPR's Don Gonyea found that Trump has been hiring an organization and so has his rival, Ben Carson.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: This is a Donald Trump rally at a high school in Sioux City.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE'RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT")

TWISTED SISTER: (Singing) We're not gonna take it...

GONYEA: Loudspeakers blast an unofficial head-banging campaign anthem to pump up the crowd for a candidate who won't speak for another hour. Outside, people are still arriving, and another important part of the campaign is taking place, volunteers working the parking lot and sidewalks.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Hi, folks, are you from Iowa? Would you like to help with the caucus? Would you like to help talk to your friends and neighbors about coming out on February 1 to caucus for Donald Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Not sure yet, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: OK. Well, if you're not sure, take one of these.

GONYEA: At this point, most Iowans haven't made a final decision. But having their names in a campaign database is critical to a candidate hoping to win them over. Meanwhile, back inside, still awaiting Trump, the focus turns to caucus night and to be ready for February whether.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TANA GOERTZ: Are you prepared? Do you have a backup plan for if there's a blizzard?

GONYEA: That's Tana Goertz, an Iowa native who starred on Trump's hit TV show, "The Apprentice." Now she's his Iowa campaign co-chair.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GOERTZ: If there's high winds, how's your grandma going to get to the caucus? You'd better say you're taking her, right? Raise your hand if you're bringing somebody to the caucus.

GONYEA: The question about Trump from the beginning was if this is a real campaign. But here in Iowa, he hired top staffers who know how to run a caucus. He's doing the things serious candidates do, according to John Stineman, a veteran Iowa GOP strategist.

JOHN STINEMAN: The Trump campaign does have a real organization. And they have really savvy operatives. And my understanding is that they have a pretty robust data operation as well.

GONYEA: Which brings us to Ben Carson.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN CARSON: I want to thank all the people of Iowa who've been supporting me and helping the rest of the nation realize that we shouldn't let the professional class pick our presidents.

GONYEA: Like the candidate himself, Carson's operation is low-key and less dynamic than Trump's. But he has tremendous appeal among evangelicals. That's important here. His state director, Ryan Rhodes, a founder of the Iowa Tea Party, says they are organized in every Iowa county.

RYAN RHODES: We have money. We have resources. And we have people who are putting those resources to very good use.

GONYEA: And Carson has another important weapon, Facebook. He has 4.5 million followers, more than any other candidate, which he uses to target Iowa voters. Ryan Rhodes says it's about finding new backers and connecting with those already on board.

RHODES: At the end of the day, nothing's firm until the vote's cast.

GONYEA: For a candidate to succeed in Iowa, they need both buzz and organization. Carson and Trump are both working hard now to lock in voters, especially because the buzz can be fleeting. Don Gonyea, NPR News.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.