By Tim Reid and Nathan Layne
ALTOONA/MARION, Iowa (Reuters) -When Iowa voters gather on Monday to kick off the Republican presidential nominating race, forecasters predict it could be the coldest Iowa caucus night ever – as low as a frigid minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees Celsius) in places.
Candidate Ron DeSantis said on Thursday he’s never experienced cold like that and has a major problem: He left his winter coat in his home state of Florida and has asked aides to fly it to Iowa as soon as possible.
DeSantis is locked in a battle with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for second place in Iowa, behind Republican former President Donald Trump, the clear frontrunner, to see who will face President Joe Biden in November’s election.
Speaking at a biofuels meeting in Altoona, DeSantis told the gathering he returned to his home state earlier in the week to give his annual address to the state legislature.
When he flew back to Iowa, he said, he forgot a vital piece of clothing.
“I actually do have a winter coat, believe it or not, you know to go over the suit and it is pretty nice. And I left the winter coat in Tallahassee, so they’re now doing an operation to be able to get that winter coat up here,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis noted that many Midwesterners, including Iowans, head to Florida this time of year to escape the cold, telling the crowd that his home state will be enjoying temperatures in the 70s this weekend.
But he urged people to brave the chill in Iowa on Monday evening and vote for him.
In other news from the campaign trail:
AMPLE TRUST TO GO AROUND
Haley looked to undo any damage from comments she made last week that voters in New Hampshire, where recent polls put her a clear second and narrowing Trump’s lead ahead of the Jan. 23 primary, would “correct” the result of the Iowa caucuses.
The remarks did not sit well with Iowa voters, who take their first-in-the-nation status in the nominating races seriously. DeSantis has pounced on her comment as “offensive.”
Haley told the crowd at a campaign event on Thursday in Ankeny, Iowa, that she trusted them.
“I trust that you did your homework,” she said. “I trust you know where you want the country to go.”
LEVEL-PEGGING IN SECOND PLACE
A new opinion poll from Iowa shows Trump far ahead of his main rivals with four days to go before voting begins.
Trump’s support stood at 55% among likely caucusgoers in an Iowa State University/Civiqs poll released on Thursday. The survey showed DeSantis and Haley locked in a battle for second place, both at 14%.
In a possible bright spot for Haley, 4% backed Chris Christie, who pulled out of the race on Wednesday. Over half of his supporters put Haley in second place, according to the findings of the survey.
(Reporting by Tim Reid, Nathan Layne and Costas Pitas; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)