COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa -- Donald Trump begged Iowans on Tuesday to caucus for him in just over a month, saying he’ll be in the state “so much you’re going to get so sick of me."
At a rally in western Iowa, he dismissed suggestions that the campaign will not be able to turn out supporters on February 1, pushing back against the notion that a significant pool of his supporters are not traditional caucus-goers and will stay at home instead.
“I really hope that doesn’t happen,” Trump told the crowd. “I’ll tell you – you’ll be so proud of me and so proud of yourselves [for showing up]."
With below-freezing temperatures outside the event, several thousand supporters filled into the hall in Council Bluffs, Iowa, with several hundred more stranded outside when the fire marshal cut off additional access.
The GOP’s front-runner received assistance from a mass of backers crossing the Missouri River from neighboring Nebraska, prompting Trump to acknowledge the boisterous Nebraskans in the crowd.
“You have a lot of friends in Iowa,” Trump said. “You call every one of them on February 1st, and you make sure they get out and vote."
After opening up his speech with an enthusiastic shout-out to “the evangelicals,” Trump took an indirect shot at Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
“Just remember this -- in all fairness, to the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba,” Trump said, alluding to Cruz and Rubio’s fathers, who were both immigrants from Cuba. He made the same point three weeks ago in Des Moines.
Trump took the stage holding his Bible – a frequent prop when he visits the state – as he continues to try to the court religious conservatives who make up a majority of the Republican electorate in Iowa.
Throughout his 75-minute speech, Trump frequently referenced the importance of the caucuses. He even noted he may be “setting myself up” with his frequent praise of his “unbelievable” standing in Iowa if he were to lose in the state.
Several conservative observers have suggested that Trump’s stock would fall if he were to lose the caucus.
Trump also told the few Iowans in the crowd that he would ensure their state keeps its position as the first in the nation to pick a candidate in the nominating process.
“I’ll give you my word – if I win, you’re not going anywhere,” Trump proclaimed.
He added, “There’s an amazing feeling when you come to Iowa. And [being first] makes you important, to be honest.”
Two weeks after heaping praise on Vladimir Putin as a “strong leader,” Trump continued to suggest he would foster a partnership with the Russian leader.
“I like that Putin called me brilliant, I'll be totally honest,” Trump said.
He continued, “I think it’s great if Russia and the United States can actually get together. I think it’s fine, I think it’s fine.”
The Republican frontrunner also directed the crowd to GOP rival Jeb Bush.
“By the way, who would you rather have negotiating: Jeb or Trump?” he asked the crowd.
It responded – nearly in unison – with chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump” as the candidate waved his arms up and down.