Two days after Super Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Cory Gardner is slated to visit Iowa for a caucus kickoff rally in a downtown hotel ballroom. His campaign will have just a handful of staffers on hand, he said.
“I can’t lose, and I’m trying to make it about winning,” Gardner said.
But a three-candidate slate of unaffiliated hopefuls faces a nearly insurmountable task in pulling off a coup in a party with an unwritten rule that a candidate for president must receive a certain percentage of their party’s caucus votes.
The candidate who doesn’t get that number will lose on caucus night.
The last time this happened? When Pat Robertson’s “religious crusade” campaign carried his bid to the center on Wednesday night, Jan. 26, 1987.
That outcome is all too familiar for Gardner, a member of the so-called “Big Four” establishment candidates, in the minds of Iowa Republicans.
“You have to believe you can win the caucuses before you even put a bet on a white horse to go get it,” Gardner said.
Following the so-called Iowa Des Moines Register straw poll, he became the official choice of establishment Republicans.
But the support faded over the years.
“We were never successful,” he said.
Gardner went on to become the state treasurer of Colorado and then the only Republican to appear on a ballot this fall for the U.S. Senate.
Now, he wants to send the “right message” that he is the best choice to run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The question is, will anyone care?
This weekend, elections at no fewer than four polling locations in Johnson County’s Forest City and Gregory-Polk County have been canceled.
“Those communities will have caucus events that go forward,” said Johnson County GOP chairman Steve Rand.
Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses will be held Feb. 2.
This also serves as a reminder that Iowa is not a stand-alone state, where votes can be mailed in. Many party members are heavily concentrated in counties such as Johnson, Polk and Johnson that hold precinct caucuses across the state.
One of the best recruiting tools Gardner has is the candidate pool that he is tapping to bolster his campaign, which counts 33,000 supporters to Warren’s 20,000, according to his campaign manager Sarah Sabetta.
Those supporters represent nearly half of Iowa Republicans. They are willing to work their tails off, even work away, Gardner said.
“You’re not going to fly everybody to Des Moines for an hour’s meeting,” he said. “You’re going to keep after them, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”