By Jill Colvin ,AP
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — It’s the No. 1 question headed into the primary season: Does Donald Trump merely have fans, or does the national front-runner for the U.S. conservative Republican Party presidential nomination have voters who will mobilize come caucus day in Iowa?
The definitive answer won’t arrive until first-to-vote Iowa holds its caucuses on Feb. 1, but interviews with dozens of voters, political operatives, party leaders and campaign volunteers in the past week paint a mixed picture of Trump’s efforts to make sure they turn out.
Even some of the billionaire real-estate mogul’s most ardent backers wonder whether the political novice has the kind of ground game needed to ensure supporters — especially those new to taking part in a caucus — can navigate a process that isn’t as easy as casting a ballot. But many believe that even if Trump is falling short when it comes to building a get-out-the-vote effort, his supporters are so enthusiastic it won’t much matter.
“I have a feeling we’re going to actually do better than the polls are saying because there’s a movement,” Trump told supporters in suburban Des Moines last week, dismissing suggestions that the thousands who pack his rallies won’t make it out on caucus night.
Questions about Trump’s turnout effort are magnified by his place alongside Texas Senator Ted Cruz atop preference polls in Iowa. Republican leaders in the state largely agree that Cruz has the most powerful get-out-the-vote operation among the Republican candidates for president — complete with an army of out-of-state volunteers housed in dormitories.
Those same observers were mixed when describing what Trump has put together.
Dozens of people interviewed by The Associated Press at Trump rallies across the state say that while his team is active online, they have had relatively little personal contact from the campaign. Many said they had yet to receive a phone call or a campaign mailing. None reported a knock on the door.