The first Democratic primary will be held in South Carolina. But the Iowa caucuses, set for February 5 next year, have been the focus for Republicans.
Blaze TV show host and Iowa radio personality Steve Deace said on American Family Radio Thursday the former president is running a lackluster campaign in the state that will cast Republican votes first. Trump's unwillingness to admit failure on any level, he said, plays into some questionable decisions and helps make him a vulnerable presidential candidate.
Deace told show host Jenna Ellis that while Joe Biden receives a lot of blame for the economy, the problems began with Trump's early COVID-19 decisions – primarily the lockdowns – that didn't play well with conservative Iowans.
"Because of that decision-making process in 2020, people are still suffering. Every bit of inflation we have right now all goes back to COVID. Virtually every issue that is threatening us right now all goes back to COVID before we even got to those poisonous jabs," Deace said.
According to Deace, many voters – not only in Iowa but across the country – remember strong conservative decisions made by President Trump and want to believe in him again.
"People say, 'Just give me something. I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I want to be all-in,' but he won't do it. He won't provide it because that would require admitting he was wrong, that he is a sinner, and ultimately, we can't rise above our own worldview."
Deace said before Trump needs to be president again, he needs Jesus Christ in his life.
"There are Founding Fathers who are in Hell for all of eternity, who did some great work, but they didn't bow the knee to Jesus either. They didn't repent of owning slaves either, and they're in Hell now, because of those decisions – and so will he be," said Deace.
"Before he needs to escape the quote-unquote 'witch hunts,' that man needs Jesus. You make these kinds of decisions that would be fueled by showing some self-awareness, but he won't do it because he can't admit, 'I'm not God.'"
Early COVID decisions could hurt Trump in Iowa
Deace said the memory of suffering will impact how many Iowans feel about Trump.
"They are begging him, give me a reason to forgive you about my uncle who died suddenly. Give me a reason to forgive you about my grandfather who died alone in lockdowns, and I couldn't say goodbye. Give me a reason to forgive you for my friend who shot himself because his church closed down, and he lost his Celebrate Recovery group," Deace said. "These are all stories in my audience, by the way, because they're all stories that are all in all of our audiences."
Early COVID decisions aside, Iowa voters may not be impressed by Trump's efforts – or lack thereof – to get to know him.
Trump has not totally neglected the state. He attended the Iowa-Iowa State college football game in Ames over the weekend where he was cheered by Iowa State fraternity members as he signed footballs then threw them into a friendly crowd.
However, Trump skipped The Family Leadership Summit in mid-July, an event that attracted over 2,000 GOP voters. All other GOP hopefuls were on hand.
Bob Vander Platts, president and CEO of the Family Leader, told CBS News that Trump was "making a mistake" by not attending.
"In talking to a number of key Evangelical and Republican strategists and grassroots leaders in Iowa, they just don't see that Trump is making much of an effort. They don't see a ground operation that's serious compared to DeSantis," author and political strategist Joel Rosenberg told Ellis.
"I've had multiple conversations over the last couple of weeks, and some of these are people who really like Trump and feel like maybe the time has passed, and maybe it's time to shift. They're open to other opportunities, other possibilities. They see DeSantis as the best position to win."
Like Biden, Trump conducting 'basement campaign'
Different candidates have different needs. Trump continues to far out-pace the rest of the field in GOP polling numbers. If the primary season is a marathon and not a sprint, a leading candidate might take an approach different from the rest of the field at the beginning. But it's not unusual in Iowa, according to Deace.
"This strategy has been tried in our state before," he said, noting that Mitt Romney's second-place finish in the state in 2012 after a "tepid" campaign.
What stands out with Trump right now, Deace says, is he's not only ignoring Iowans. "Tell me where he's campaigning anywhere in America," he argued. "This is a basement campaign. This is the campaign we saw from Biden. [Trump] hasn't had a rally since the 4th of July weekend."
Last week Trump was in South Dakota where he received the endorsement of Gov. Kristi Noem, but he was a guest at a GOP event – not holding court at his own campaign rally.
"He hasn't done any form of the aggressive campaigning that we saw in 2016. None of it," Deace noted. "I haven't checked in a few days, but as recently as late last week there wasn't anything on his calendar for an actual campaign event anywhere in America. You could have this exact conversation in New Hampshire. Nevada is another early state. He's not campaigning really anywhere."