In Frigid Marshalltown, Iowans Prepare to Caucus in Crowded Roundhouse

In Frigid Marshalltown, Iowans Prepare to Caucus in Crowded Roundhouse

]

MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa—One day before the Jan. 15 Iowa caucus, two families sat together in the waiting area of a Perkins in Marshalltown, Iowa—the Mitchums, who support Vivek Ramaswamy, and the Bragas, who support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The difference of opinion “might ruin our friendship,” quipped Kathy Braga, drawing belly laughs from the bench full of local Republicans.

“I always have supported the underdog,” Ray Mitchum, a retired teacher, told The Epoch Times.

He said he’d decided Mr. Ramaswamy was sincere and not just a slick talker after seeing him on multiple occasions—a privilege traditionally afforded to Iowans in the weeks and months ahead of their early caucuses.

“I’ve met with him now six or seven times,” Mr. Mitchum said.

“Ramaswamy has a good argument that he is a Trump without the baggage and a fresh set of legs,” he added.

Related Stories

Major Republican Donor in Iowa Endorses Trump as President
LIVE UPDATES: GOP Candidates Make Final Pitches on Eve of Iowa Caucuses

Mrs. Braga’s husband, Brad, told The Epoch Times that Mr. DeSantis is the most Reagan-esque of the candidates in the race.

“Going back to 1980, we were big Reagan people,” he said.

In his view, Mr. DeSantis “aligns with the values we have here in Iowa.”

Like other fans of the Florida governor, he cited Mr. DeSantis’s handling of COVID-19 and school-related policies as reasons for his support.

Logistics a Worry Ahead of Cold Caucus Night

They will be among the Republicans gathering at the Marshalltown High School Roundhouse, a large domed gymnasium for the school where Mr. Mitchum used to teach biology. On the morning of Jan. 14, the Roundhouse’s parking lot was mostly cleared, but, as Mr. Braga pointed out, still dotted with “piles of snow” in places.

According to the Iowa Republican Party’s website, eight “Marshalltown City” precincts will meet at the “Roundhouse.” Dave Engel, co-chair of the Marshall County Republican Party, told The Epoch Times that 2,000 to 3,000 people could show up to caucus on Monday night.

“There’s not going to be many places to even park there,” Mr. Braga predicted.

Any long walk through the parking lot will be frigid. The National Weather Service predicts wind chills as low as minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
Marshalltown, Iowa's Roundhouse, a gymnasium attached to the local high school, one day ahead of the Jan. 15, 2024 caucus. Thousands of men and women may flock here to vote for their candidate in Republicans' first-in-the-nation contest. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch TImes)
Marshalltown, Iowa’s Roundhouse, a gymnasium attached to the local high school, one day ahead of the Jan. 15, 2024 caucus. Thousands of men and women may flock here to vote for their candidate in Republicans’ first-in-the-nation contest. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch TImes)

“The timing isn’t the best, but historically, it’s been this way,” Shari Coughenour, the secretary of the Marshall County Republican Party, told The Epoch Times.

“I think the faithful will come out,” she added.

“Iowans are pretty hardy,” Mr. Engel said.

Mr. Braga, the DeSantis supporter, worries about the weather’s impact on turnout.

He speculated that “true believers” would come out to caucus—but he wasn’t sure what that would mean for his candidate of choice.

By contrast with Iowa Republicans, Iowa Democrats have totally eliminated their in-person caucus this cycle. Participants will be able to mail in presidential preference cards for weeks, with the results released on March 5, “Super Tuesday.”

Ms. Coughenour noted that, while Republicans don’t have a formal rideshare, she’s taken personal calls from friends seeking transportation to the event.

The longtime local Republican volunteer said she “would not be surprised” to see former President Donald Trump win Iowa.

That’s in line with much of the latest opinion research, including a late poll released Jan. 13 by the Des Moines Register, NBC News, and Mediacom Communications Corp. that shows him with backing from 48 percent of probable caucus attendees.

“I don’t believe in the polls. The polls have never been the truthful outcome,” said Ms. Braga.

“If you believe in somebody—in something—then you just gotta go on,” she added.

From left to right, Ray Mitchum, Jana Mitchum, Kathy Braga, and Brad Braga at a Perkins diner in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Jan. 14, the day before the state's 2024 Republican caucus. The Mitchums support Vivek Ramaswamy, while the Bragas are all in for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
From left to right, Ray Mitchum, Jana Mitchum, Kathy Braga, and Brad Braga at a Perkins diner in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Jan. 14, the day before the state’s 2024 Republican caucus. The Mitchums support Vivek Ramaswamy, while the Bragas are all in for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Economy, the Border, and Carbon Capture Pipelines Among Local Republicans’ Concerns

Local Republicans who spoke with The Epoch Times listed a number of familiar issues among their biggest priorities.

“The economy is one,” said Mr. Engel, referencing high inflation in the recent past.

He and Mr. Braga both highlighted the push for electric vehicles (EVs).

“Look at it out here right now,” said Mr. Braga, gesturing toward the snowy landscape outside the Perkins’ window.

“We can’t have those kind of cars out here in this kind of weather,” he added.

Locals also worry about the mass influx of illegal immigrants.

JBS Swift’s meatpacking operations in Marshalltown have long drawn in workers from abroad. Not all come legally.

In 2006, Swift’s pork processing facility in Marshalltown was raided along with others as part of the United States’ largest-ever immigration enforcement operation. A similar raid took place a decade later.

“Legal immigration is fine with us,” said Mr. Engel.

The possible use of eminent domain to take land for carbon capture pipelines also concerns voters.

Ray Mitchum, a retired high school biology teacher, at a Perkins diner in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Jan. 14, 2024, just one day ahead of his state's caucus. "Iowa is in a position that is special." (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch TImes).
Ray Mitchum, a retired high school biology teacher, at a Perkins diner in Marshalltown, Iowa, on Jan. 14, 2024, just one day ahead of his state’s caucus. “Iowa is in a position that is special.” (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch TImes).
Mr. Ramaswamy and one of his endorsers, former Iowa lawmaker Steve King, have campaigned through the state against the issue. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Ryan Binkley have spoken out too.

“Trump’s not defending our constitutional property rights on this pipeline,” Mr. King told The Epoch Times on Jan. 11 after campaigning with Mr. Ramaswamy.

Mr. Braga said that his son’s father-in-law, who owns land in southwest Iowa, would be affected by the plans.

“It’s going to run right through his property… That’s an issue that bothers them, and so it bothers us,” he said.

#Frigid #Marshalltown #Iowans #Prepare #Caucus #Crowded #Roundhouse


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *