Donald Trump may not be an experienced public servant, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express Friday night.
For most of the campaign, the GOP front-runner had been day-tripping: commuting to Iowa on his private jet, rambling into a microphone for an hour and a half, then flying back to New York or his palatial getaway in Palm Beach. The billionaire’s refusal to make shaking hands and kissing babies a full-time gig led many pundits to dismiss his candidacy as unserious. But this weekend, Trump weathered a night in a motel, just to press more flesh in the Hawkeye State, the New York Times reports.
In Iowa, Trump is behaving more and more like a normal candidate. After months of refusing to spend a dime on advertising, the Donald is blanketing the airwaves in 60-second ads; after neglecting to set up a ground game, he has his campaign manager and top spokesperson staying in the state until the caucus; and after largely avoiding close contact with voters, Trump sat among them in the pews on Sunday, taking in a sermon on the virtues of “humility.”
“Jesus is teaching us today that he has come for those who are outside of the church,” the reverend, Dr. Pamela Saturnia, told her congregation. “Those who are the most unloved, the most discriminated against, the most forgotten in our community and in our world … the Syrian refugees … the Mexican migrants.” Trump found that message inspiring enough to put two $50 bills into the collection plate.
Granted, he has a little ways to go on the normalcy front: At a rally Sunday night, he mocked a protester in a turban for “wearing a funny hat.” And he also boasted over the weekend that his supporters would stand by him even if he shot someone to death on Fifth Avenue.
The mogul’s mix of traditional campaigning and xenophobic demagoguery seems to be paying dividends: Trump gained 15 points in Iowa over the past two weeks, leapfrogging Ted Cruz to the top of the heap, according to a pair of Fox News polls.
But while Trump is acting more like a real candidate, he still needs his supporters to act like real voters. As Philip Bump of the Washington Post notes, while Trump draws 34 percent of Iowans in the new Fox News poll, 43 percent of those voters have never attended a caucus before.
Trump claims that his supporters would love him even if he committed murder. But do they love him enough to forgo The Apprentice reruns for a night of caucusing on February 1?