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What to expect from young Republicans at Iowa's caucuses


Iowa has gone first in the presidential primary season for a long time - over half a century. But for Iowa's youngest voters, this longtime historic political tradition is still very new. NPR's Elena Moore covers new voters and is here now to talk about what to expect from young Republicans caucusing tonight. Elena, so what will this first presidential matchup look like for Iowa's youngest voters?

ELENA MOORE, BYLINE: I mean, much like the larger Republican voter base, they're kind of on the Trump train. I talked to former Iowa state Representative Joe Mitchell about all this. He's 26 and leads the organization Run GenZ, which focuses on getting young Republicans to run for office. And, you know, he told me, A, he plans to caucus for Trump.

JOE MITCHELL: Trump has courted young conservatives and young Republicans better and more than any other candidate in the race. And you can see that in his polling numbers - and in front of the other candidates that are obviously younger than him - much younger - that he still performs that much better.

MOORE: And, you know, to Mitchell's point, the former president is really dominating in Iowa polls. And nationally, he's actually doing pretty well with young Republicans specifically. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll found that more than 6 in 10 Republican primary voters 29 and under said they're supporting Trump.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So it sounds like momentum for Trump around young Republican voters. Will that translate, though, to Gen Z and millennial voters showing up to caucus for him?

MOORE: I mean, candidates definitely understand this group has potential. Trump and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley showed up to Run GenZ's annual conference this month in Iowa. And, of course, you know, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy is very much online. He's got a pretty big TikTok account. But truthfully, though, it's really hard for anybody to go out and caucus, especially young people. I talked to Democratic strategist Tom Bonier about this.

TOM BONIER: It's like the perfect storm of low turnout conditions in terms of the different types of elections we offer in this country.

MOORE: You know, he told me, typically, the folks who turn out are just older. And caucuses do attract lower numbers compared to traditional primary elections. Plus, it's just an unconventional system to get behind. You know, a member from each campaign does this speech. You write down your vote, and they're tallied up. It's also just less flexible. There's no early or mail voting. You have to show up in person at 7 p.m. on a Monday. So it's all around a bad combo for new and young voters.

MARTÍNEZ: Bad combo. But it's a long-standing tradition, right?

MOORE: Right.

MARTÍNEZ: Thing is, though, Democrats did ditch it this year. So is this potentially the last year for the Iowa caucus?

MOORE: I mean, it may be an old system, A, but some newer voters, like Run GenZ's Mitchell, who, like I said, is 26, say they're still kind of into it.

MITCHELL: I wouldn't say the caucuses are outdated. You know, being able to have some discourse and some true, organic, grassroots people that are speaking on your behalf, I think, is a good thing.

MOORE: And, you know, like I said, Mitchell plans to caucus for Trump. He's excited about Trump. He thinks Trump is going to secure the nomination pretty quickly. And, you know, he's looking forward for the former president to start making a nationwide appeal to young voters like himself.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Elena Moore, who covers new voters. Elena, thanks.

MOORE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Elena Moore is a production assistant for the NPR Politics Podcast. She also fills in as a reporter for the NewsDesk. Moore previously worked as a production assistant for Morning Edition. During the 2020 presidential campaign, she worked for the Washington Desk as an editorial assistant, doing both research and reporting. Before coming to NPR, Moore worked at NBC News. She is a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is originally and proudly from Brooklyn, N.Y.