Subzero Temperatures Are Set to Make Iowa’s Caucuses the Coldest in History

When Iowa voters brave frigid weather to caucus on Monday, they will be participating in one of the coldest caucuses in decades — perhaps ever.

A brutal combination of prolonged, below-freezing temperatures and strong winds have created conditions for a biting cold on Monday that looks worse than any previous caucus night in the Hawkeye State.

Temperatures are not forecast to rise above minus 2 degrees all day, and by the time caucusing begins on Monday evening, the wind chill could drag temperatures to what feels like 35 degrees below zero — an extreme level of cold for even the heartiest of Midwesterners.

“If someone is extremely lucky, they might get to zero,” said Allan Curtis, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Des Moines, referring to the best-case scenario for warmth in some parts of the state on Monday. He added: “No matter how you look at it, it’s going to be a bitter one.”

The coldest caucus before this year was in 2004, when temperatures did not rise above 16 degrees, according to National Weather Service data. But it’s not the first time that Iowa caucusgoers have had to brave subzero temperatures. During the 1972 caucus, temperatures in Des Moines dipped to a low of minus 4 degrees, though they later rose into the 20s. In Waterloo, roughly two hours north, thermometers that year read as low as minus 11 degrees.

This year’s weather has turned what is usually a frenzied and well-funded caucus weekend into a far more subdued affair. Blizzards and icy roads scrambled candidates’ schedules late into the final stretch of campaigning, leaving reporters marooned in hotels and candidates with precious little time to talk to voters with fewer than 72 hours before caucusing begins.

It has also stirred some anxiety within the campaigns, as strategists speculate over how the deep freeze could affect turnout. Former President Donald J. Trump, who canceled a majority of his rallies through the weekend because of the weather, said during a radio interview on Friday that he expects “great turnout” from his supporters despite Monday’s arctic temperatures.

Nikki Haley, who canceled in-person events on Friday in response to blizzards across the state, asked her supporters during a virtual town hall for Council Bluffs voters to turn out in the cold weather and dress warmly in case there are lines outside of caucus sites.

“I know it is asking a lot of you to go out and caucus, but I also know we have a country to save,” she said. “And I will be out there in the cold.”

And on Saturday, campaigning in person in Cedar Falls, she was.

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