By Tim Reid and Nathan Layne
ANKENY/URBANDALE, Iowa (Reuters) -Severe winter weather caused havoc for Republican presidential candidates in Iowa on Friday, three days before the party’s nominating race kicks off in the state.
Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, was forced to cancel all three of her events, as blizzard snow, bitter cold and high winds made Iowa’s roads dangerous.
“I definitely know I’m not in South Carolina anymore,” she quipped to voters in northwestern Iowa during one of the virtual town halls she held instead of in-person campaign stops.
Former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner to deliver a knockout punch in the Republican race, was not in Iowa on Friday, and an event for his campaign due to feature prominent ally Kari Lake was canceled “for the safety of our guests.”
Trump holds a commanding lead over his two main opponents, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Haley, both in Iowa and nationwide polling in the battle to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in November’s election.
DeSantis and Haley are locked in a battle for second place in Iowa, in their bid to become the clear, lone alternative to Trump.
DeSantis did manage to hold an event on Friday morning in Ankeny, close to the state capital Des Moines.
He looked ahead to the caucuses on Monday evening.
“I know it’s gonna be cold. I know it’s gonna be not the most pleasant, but I don’t think you’ll ever be able to pass a vote that has more impact,” he said, urging Iowans to back him.
One Trump supporter said she was calling on Jesus to lend a hand ahead of Monday, which is forecast to be a record cold caucus night with temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 degrees Celsius) in some places.
“I’m declaring that it be warmer in Jesus’ name,” evangelist Patricia Lage told Reuters at an event on Thursday featuring Trump’s eldest son Don Jr. in Urbandale.
But Lage said she and fellow Trump supporters would turn out no matter what.
“The Trump people are hardcore,” she said.
In other news from the campaign trail:
The Trump and DeSantis campaigns told reporters they were confident their supporters would show up in large numbers on Monday.
Chris LaCivita, co-manager of the Trump campaign, pointed to the former president’s rallies, some of them attended by thousands of Iowans, as a sign of the “intensity” of his base.
“You’ve been to our rallies, and you’ve seen the lines of people,” LaCivita said at a media roundtable hosted on Friday by Bloomberg in Des Moines.
DeSantis’ deputy campaign manager David Polyansky predicted DeSantis’ organizational efforts in Iowa, where he has visited all 99 counties, would be an advantage in turning out voters in such conditions.
“I wouldn’t want to go into minus 17-degree temperatures not being the hardest-working campaign and candidate and the most organized,” Polyansky told an earlier Bloomberg roundtable.
“In these kind of elements, that’s the kind of ground game, that’s the kind of history you want to have going into this,” he added.
Polyansky said DeSantis would not drop out of the race after Iowa, noting that the candidate planned to be in New Hampshire, the second Republican nominating state, for debates scheduled for Jan. 18 and Jan. 21.
DeSantis has banked his campaign on a strong result in Iowa and is essentially tied for second-place with Haley in the state, while trailing her in New Hampshire.
“We’re in this for the long haul. I want to make that abundantly clear,” Polyansky said.
OREGON COURT SIDESTEPS TRUMP CHALLENGE
Oregon’s top court on Friday declined to consider a challenge to Trump’s eligibility for the state’s May Republican primary under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s ban on people who have engaged in “insurrection” holding office.
The state Supreme Court held off on hearing the case while the U.S. Supreme Court considers an appeal of Colorado’s decision to disqualify Trump from the ballot in that state.
The Oregon Supreme Court said the challengers, a group of five state voters backed by the left-leaning advocacy group Free Speech for People, may revive their case later depending on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling following Feb. 8 arguments.
Trump has faced legal challenges to his candidacy in several states from voters and advocates who have argued that he engaged in insurrection when he spread false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen through voter fraud and then urged his supporters to march on Congress to stop the certification of the results.
Colorado and Maine deemed Trump ineligible for the presidency, but both states put their decisions on hold while Trump appeals. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling is expected to give clarity on Trump’s eligibility, but may not fully resolve the issue.
(Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter and Andrew Goudsward in Washington; Writing by Nathan Layne and Costas Pitas; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Alistair Bell and Rosalba O’Brien)