Trump sets expectations for Iowa: He wants to win — by a lot

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CORALVILLE, Iowa — Former President Donald Trump is setting new and lofty expectations in Iowa one month out from the caucuses, saying he’s looking not only to win, but to defeat his Republican opponents by a wide margin.

During a campaign event here on Wednesday, Trump said Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird had encouraged him to emphasize the importance of the margin of victory to supporters who may not feel the need to turn out to the caucuses given the former president’s comfortable lead in the polls.

“That margin of victory is so, so powerful,” Trump said while referring to a conversation he had with Bird, who has endorsed the former president. “Brenna was telling me before, she said, ‘Sir, you’ve got to say something about it, because you are leading by a lot. And sometimes when you’re leading by a lot, everyone says, ‘Oh, why should I go and vote?’”

Bird took the stage before Trump on Wednesday night, noting that the record margin of victory in a contested Iowa Republican caucus was 12 points. “We need to beat that. We need Donald Trump to set the record for the biggest win in Iowa history,” Bird said.

Trump has consistently held a clear advantage in the polls over his GOP rivals. The latest NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll showed the former president surpassing 50% support among likely Iowa caucusgoers, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis placing a distant second, at 19%.

A dominating win in the first-in-the nation caucuses would further reinforce Trump's standing as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. But there is danger for Trump and his allies in publicly stating such ambitious goals for Iowa. A closer-than-expected victory in the could provide momentum for his challengers heading into the next states on the primary calendar.

In recent months, Trump has largely set his sights on the general election in his campaign speeches. During a stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, two weeks ago, Trump’s remarks were threaded together by the missive that President Joe Biden is the “destroyer of democracy.”

But on Wednesday, Trump returned his focus to his Republican opponents, issuing new attacks on former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley — who is polling in third in Iowa — and her new endorsement from New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu.

“He endorsed her today. And it meant nothing,” Trump said, while attempting to discount Haley’s recent polling bump. “There’s no surge. They don’t have any surge. She has a guy in New Hampshire, the governor of New Hampshire, he’s very selfish. He could have been the senator, we would have taken the majority. But he decided he wanted to run for president but didn’t have the guts to do it,” Trump said.

The former president also criticized Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who has endorsed DeSantis.

“So she goes out and she endorses, and she was one of the most popular governors in the nation. And now, she’s probably the least popular governor in the entire nation,” Trump said.

The former president also touted his campaign’s ground game in Iowa, even though he has hosted less than a quarter of the Iowa events some of his Republican competitors have held, including Vivek Ramawamy and DeSantis.

Trump’s 2016 Iowa campaign was marked by lack of adequate infrastructure and organizational expertise. This time around, Trump senior adviser Jason Miller said the campaign is significantly different and is taking nothing for granted

“It doesn’t matter if we’re ahead by more than 30 points over ‘DeSanctimonius’ and Nikki Haley, we’re going to run as if we were tied,” Miller said.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com